Society and Culture

There’s Something Scarier Than Religious Freedom Going on in Indiana

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Amid sustained calls to “fix this now” and the trending Twitter hashtag #boycottindiana, Indiana’s Republican leadership has quietly been maneuvering to maintain the increased discrimination against LGBT residents that Governor Mike Pence‘s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) enabled. The Indiana legislature voted this week to deny protective provisions that would have ensured that religious protections cannot be used to discriminate against LGBT people. According to Think Progress editor Zack Ford, due to recent legal developments, “outside of the few municipalities with local protections, anti-LGBT discrimination is still legal throughout most of the state.”

And although #boycottindiana is trending hard on Twitter, the RFRA is hardly the only devastating bill to come out of Indiana recently.

But it’s the only one causing majors trends.

Why? One of the big reasons: mainstream (read: overwhelmingly white) LGBT advocates, organizations, and issues have largely gained the support of big businesses and corporations. (Yes, I know that the pizzeria that supported the RFRA made an absurd amount of money from the controversy. But that’s not the systemic trend, which favors corporations making profit off of and cooperating with upper- and middle-class, white LGB people and organizations.)

So what could be trending under the hashtag #boycottindiana, but is not?

An incredibly scary amendment to Senate Bill 465, which addresses the operations of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, was passed in the Indiana House this week. Though much ire and rage have been focused on the Indiana Republican leadership that was responsible for the RFRA, it was Democratic Representative Terry Goodin who proposed adding the drug testing requirement to the bill.

Drug testing requirements in order to receive welfare fundamentally introduce even greater racism into welfare programs: even though white people tend to use illegal drugs at comparable or even higher rates than people of color, people of color are arrested and imprisoned at disproportionately higher rates for drug related “crimes” than white people. This means that people of color who are welfare recipients are going to be disproportionately targeted by the new provision’s requirement that recipients with histories of drug-related “crimes” be required to undergo testing. These folks will be stripped of their welfare benefits if they fail two tests.

So… Why is the #boycottindiana hashtag not blowing up with rage over this new twist to already-racist policies? Do my fellow white queers think racist laws are alright while homophobic laws are not?

Racial justice is LGBT justice.

So… Where are the trending boycotts against all kinds of racist laws across the country, like the resurgence of Jim Crow-esque laws that suppress the votes of Black and Latina people by mandating ID requirements for voting?

Where is the #boycottwhitenessinLGBTorganizations hashtag? The #boycottmassincarceration hashtag, or the #boycottracism hashtag? The #boycottwhitesupremacy hashtag?

Oh, yes. We can’t boycott those things. They’re too integrated into what makes this country operate.

Jennifer Polish
Jennifer Polish is an English PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC, where she studies non/human animals and the racialization of dis/ability in young adult literature. When she’s not yelling at the computer because Netflix is loading too slowly, she is editing her novel, doing activist-y things, running, or giving the computer a break and yelling at books instead. Contact Jennifer at



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