Hey, Mayor Murray: There Are Progressives in Indiana, Too



This morning, Mayor Ed Murray announcd an executive order barring city employees from traveling to Indiana on city business or with city funds.

Murray said the travel ban would ensure that “none of our taxpayer dollars [will] go toward supporting this discriminatory law.”

In the same breath, he said that by participating in #boycattindiana, the city was showing its solidarity with progressive Hoosiers as they “continue [their] efforts to end discrimination and protect civil rights for everyone.”

Murray is also directing city staff to make sure the city doesn’t have any contracts with companies based in Indiana.

This sort of thing, more than lofty declarations like the council’s resolution last week to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, makes my blood curdle. It’s one thing to say that Indiana’s anti-LGBT law (which explicitly allows businesses to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and transgender people); it’s quite another to say entire cities should “boycott Indiana” by withholding their business from Indiana companies—companies that, incidentally, employ gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.

What the “boycott Indiana” movement is really arguing for is action that would do the most harm to the people with the least, including struggling LGBT-owned businesses. It’s stereotyping an entire state (a phenomenon with which I, as a Mississippi and Texas native, am all too familiar) as a bunch of illiterate corn-pone bigots. Yet there are plenty of progressives in Indiana, and plenty of people fighting against discrimination and the very law Murray and others claim to be standing up against by opposing investment in their state.

As my pal Melissa McEwan noted pungently at Shakesville:

And if you understand that this “religious freedom” bill was a reactionary act by people who were angry that the federal government did something they didn’t like (force them to legalize same-sex marriage), then you should understand that a reactionary act by people angry at our state government because they did something you didn’t like (codify bigotry) is just part of the same damn problem.

It’s not thoughtful and it’s not compassionate and it’s not helpful.

And let’s be honest here: It isn’t like the vast majority of people who are cheering “Boycott Indiana!” had any plans to visit Indiana and spend money in this state, anyway. It’s just a slogan to shout at a state they perceive to be full of fat, poor, lazy, conservative, straight, cis, white people.

Which underlines what’s really the worst thing about this idea: It’s reflective of a vicious stereotype that disappears the existence of the very people for whom the sloganeers purport to care.

Melissa’s Twitter feed is blowing up now over the #boycottindiana meme right now, and I strongly suggest you check out her perspective and positive suggestions for what progressives can actually do to help LGBT people and their allies in Indiana.
Hint: It isn’t withdrawing money from their already crippled economy. Mayor Murray would do more for LGBT people in Indiana by donating money to progressive groups in the state than he is by supporting a misguided boycott that will only hurt the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

3 thoughts on “Hey, Mayor Murray: There Are Progressives in Indiana, Too”

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. The fight for marriage equality shows that minds can be changed, so it doesn’t make sense to just give up on a whole state or region. If we boycotted every state that passed laws that are against progressive values we’d end up boycotting almost every other state. Arguably, sending city employees to Wisconsin and Michigan is like crossing a picket line at this point. Not to mention all the anti-choice laws that have been passed in different states recently.

    So I don’t think a complete boycott of Indiana makes sense. It does make sense to not send employees to Indiana. A civil servant in Indianapolis for a conference probably won’t need to get an abortion or worry about their union getting decertified, They do have to get food and lodging, possibly emergency medical care, and there is a real chance that they will be denied service.

    The mayor’s main concern should be protecting employees not scoring points.

  2. Thrilled to find your site – thanks to horsesass.org – and appreciate your posts. That said, I disagree with you about the Indiana boycott. I’m not a big fan of Mayor Murray, but I’m with him on this one.

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