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I was raised in what I would call an average American home. My dad worked hard while my mom stayed at home and raised my older brother and I with our two dogs and two cats. We lived in a small town where half the population grew up together, attended church a few times a week and laughed together at school functions. All that was missing was the white picket fence.

Or so I thought.

I didn’t realize until middle school that my parents had never really put an emphasis on “God” or “Jesus.” I knew what church was and I knew the purpose of the Bible but I didn’t have an exposure to either. It was around that time in middle school when I also became aware of the prejudice many of the people in my small town had against people that were homosexual. In my household there was nothing wrong with who you were and my mother’s best friend was a gay man she had known since high school.

Looking back, I think part of this light-bulb of sorts can be attributed to early government classes where you learn the basics about the Constitution and what is written within it. Separation of church and state? No established religion? All men are created equal? Clearly some lawmakers were elected without anyone looking at their high school transcripts to see the big ol’ fail in their government and/or history classes.

“Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Perhaps part of this line of thinking could be attributed to me being a newly Goth kid that listened to alternative rock too loudly and was stuck in a town full of people that seemed more fake than The Hills. I hated my classmates, most of my teachers and any sort of authority figure other than my parents. Pointing out the ways in which our government officials were failing at their jobs was like a game in my eyes.

And then I got older…and madder.

Not so much at all authority figures. I recognized a line drawn between government officials otherwise known as “the aisle” and I knew what it meant. I guess it was more or less my eyes opening to how aggravating it is to watch basic rights played with in front of my fellow human being’s eyes as if it were a game of solitaire except the computer is being paid for by the poor souls being toyed with.

Why am I any different then those people? I’m a straight woman which means one day I may fall in love with a man and we could get married but if my best friend from high school, who is bisexual, falls in love with a man he is not allowed to marry the love of his life.

Hm. Seems completely imbalanced.

A Gallup Poll showing the breakdown of religions in the United States in 2011

A Gallup Poll showing the breakdown of religions in the United States in 2011

Fast-forward through high school a.k.a. some of the worst years for someone that’s “different” than what many people think is normal and enter my days at Wayne State University. The campus is diverse which is good and bad at the same time. Good because you get a mix of everyone; the really religious, the agnostic, the atheist, the black, the white, the yellow, the red, the young, the old and the list goes on. The bad because you see how some people were never taught how to be decent human beings and discrimination rears its’ ugly head. I cannot count how many times I’ve shook my head in shame at an atheist calling a Christian an idiot or a Christian telling an atheist they’re going to hell with the rest of the heathens. I cannot count how Bibles have been shoved into my hand or looks of disbelief that I didn’t want one when I did have the opportunity to deny the forceful gift.

“Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” – James Madison – (excerpt from a letter to Edward Livingston), July 10th, 1822.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand and that should be the beauty of the situation. I should not have to understand because we all have the right to believe what we want and to do so without worrying about someone stepping on our toes.

You may say I’m a dreamer and I might be the only one.

Too frequently do I see Tweets about this or that politician talking about being raised on the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman or how the family values must be protected therefore children should be in homes with a mother and a father.

Having a mother and father isn’t the most necessary thing in the world. Plenty of women raise children on their own without the help of a father figure. Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University, told LiveScience that same-sex parents “tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents.”

LiveScience also wrote:

“An October 2011 report by Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that, of gay and lesbian adoptions at more than 300 agencies, 10 percent of the kids placed were older than 6 — typically a very difficult age to adopt out. About 25 percent were older than 3. Sixty percent of gay and lesbian couples adopted across races, which is important given that minority children in the foster system tend to linger. More than half of the kids adopted by gays and lesbians had special needs.”

And yet some politicians believe they would be doing the thousands of children in the foster system a disservice if they allowed a same-sex couple to adopt them? With the amount of abuse and neglect that goes on in the foster system, any politician should be glad to see children getting the opportunity to live in a loving home.

As for protecting the sanctity of marriage and it being between one man and one woman? According to the American Psychological Association, by age 50, 90 percent of the population is married yet 40 to 50 percent divorce. What’s the point of protecting the sanctity of marriage if nearly half the population is destroying it anyway? One of the best documentaries I’ve seen was The Case Against 8 which showed the journey two same-sex couples took to take down Proposition 8 in California which banned same-sex marriage. It was beautiful and heart-breaking watching these couples have to fight for something that many take for granted.
With Indiana passing the religious freedom law, I found myself so many shades of angry I don’t even know where to start. I know by now many will think this is solely because of the effect this bill will have on the LGBTQ community which is partially true. It makes me angry knowing if I were going on a road trip with my bisexual friend to Chicago and stopped in Indiana for lunch at a small mom-and-pop restaurant he could be denied service because he is comfortable with who he is. Would I be denied too because I was a “straight ally?” Can I be refused services at any business in Indiana because I identify as Goth? As an atheist? As a human rights supporter? Where is this line truly drawn?

The Indianapolis Star's front page reaction to the religious freedom law.

The Indianapolis Star’s front page reaction to the religious freedom law. *Obtained via Google Images

I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. To me, it’s important to look at a candidate’s track record and the type of campaign they run. Are they open minded and willing to work toward a free and equal future for all citizens instead of just one group? That is the question we should be asking ourselves when going to the polls.

With companies like Starbucks, Apple, PayPal, Yelp, the NBA and NASCAR publicly claiming disapproval of the law and some threatening to discontinue expansion in the state, the question is what type of damage will be caused economically? CNN reported on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s press conference about his attempt to clarify the bill and said he would “fix” the law due to “the smear that’s been leveled against this law.”

While he claims the law does not allow businesses to discriminate against any potential customer, when George Stephanopoulos asked for a yes or no if it was legal for a florist to deny business to a gay couple’s wedding Pence deflected and refused to give the yes or no Stephanopoulos was looking for.

“This is not about discrimination,” Pence told Stephanopoulos. “This is about protecting the religious liberty of every Hoosier of every faith and we’re going to continue to work our hearts out to clarify that to the people of Indiana and the people of this great country.”

Maybe it’s because I’m not religious but I don’t think Pence recognizes the harm this law could cause. Can an atheist florist legally reject doing business with a Catholic couple getting married? I fear this will cause damage on all sides of the spectrum and many people of many faiths will become bitter toward each other and their state government. If this law stands I’m curious what the next few years will look like in Indiana, especially how the economy will hold up.

“If, therefore, from the settlement of the Saxons to the introduction of Christianity among them, that system of religion could not be a part of the common law, because they were not yet Christians, and if, having their laws from that period to the close of the common law, we are all able to find among them no such act of adoption, we may safely affirm (though contradicted by all the judges and writers on earth) that Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” Thomas Jefferson (February 10, 1814 The Works of Thomas Jefferson Published by Order of Congress)

The biggest part of this whole fiasco, and yes I do feel that it has become a fiasco, is the question of why. Why do states feel the need to “fix” something that’s not broken. People have the freedom to pray to whom they like, practice as they wish and befriend as they please. I can’t see the good in a law that could give permission to close-minded individuals to discriminate against other people who are not like them be it religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.

Signs showing support for anti-discrimination was visible all over the state. *Obtained via Google Images

Signs showing support for anti-discrimination was visible all over the state. *Obtained via Google Images

The people I really feel bad for are the ones caught in the crosshairs of this situation. The business owners who would never turn away a soul no matter who or what they were. They are the ones that suffer because they live in a state now associated with “freedom to discriminate.”

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