Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I Quit As a Travel Writer for Indiana

Today, I resigned as a travel writer for VisitIndiana.com, the website owned by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD), because of the passage and signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

I've been a travel writer for the State of Indiana for six years, a role I have loved, as it has taken me around to different parts of the state I had never seen, and I've met some outstanding people.

But after Governor Pence signed SB101 into law today, I decided that I did not want to be a part of the Indiana state government any further, even as a small-time contractor. (Update: I want to clarify that I was only a part-time contract writer for the agency, and not a full-time employee. I still have a job — I own my own business.)

I've loved being a part of VisitIndiana, and all the opportunities it's afforded me. I've made some wonderful friends, like Kendal Miller of Switzerland County Tourism, Laura Libs of Visit Evansville, and Patricia Rettig of Beef & Boards Theatre (the woman who made me appreciate musical theatre).

Entering Vevay, Indiana in Switzerland County. I never get tired of this view.

I've visited parts of the state I would have otherwise never seen, like the Heartland Historic Baseball Trail, the haunted Story Inn in Story, Indiana, and Wolf Park in Tippecanoe County.

And I remember the chaos of the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale in Fort Wayne, watching the Evansville Otters baseball team, and the very first trip I ever took, visiting Pokagon State Park and the toboggan run.

HART's Shakespeare On The Canal - The Tempest, 2014

I can't say enough nice things about the IOTD and their hard-working staff. I've become friends with several of them, and would sometimes lend my social media expertise on occasion, because I support what they do.

They do excellent work in the face of continual budget cuts, and I'm proud of the (very) small part I've played there.

If you ever want to meet a government agency filled with entrepreneurial thinkers, this is it.

I love my state, and its people, history, and traditions. As corny as it is, I even liked last year's tourism slogan, "Honest to Goodness," because I believed in what it meant.

The Lafayette Farmers Market in the Fall.

Even now, I believe Indiana is a good place, with good people who have good hearts.

But, at least today, I don't feel right in inviting people to visit us.

Not when some of them are less welcome. Not when there's a chance they'll be told they're not wanted. I can't ask them to come here, so I quit.

I'll still be a cheerleader for our state and tell everyone about the wonderful places and people in it. But I'll be doing it on this blog, on my own time. Not for a government who thinks so poorly of some of its citizens that it legalizes discrimination against them.

For those of you who read my work, supported my efforts, and made it possible for me to travel my home state and report on what I found, thank you very much. Thank you for six of the most interesting and most exciting years I've spent here.

16 comments:

  1. Erik,

    I've been concerned about this Act since I heard of it, but when I read through it today, I didn't see any way that it "legalizes discrimination against [anyone]." I'd like to be informed, but reasonable. Can you point me to a balanced and reasoned analysis of the actual text of the Act, avoiding the Internet's typical inflammatory garbage? I'd like to be better informed.

    Thanks in advance.
    ~~Matt

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    1. https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101#digest-heading

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    2. Make sure to read the amendments that passed from the original that what is just shown on the front page about the bill But the way it is worded is a very slippery slope for discrimination of all types of things.

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    3. I was going to write something about Section 9 being the problem section, but my friend Michael Hurst (we worked together at the state health department) posted something on Facebook that said it so much better than me.

      https://www.facebook.com/michael.hurst.7/posts/861058773932380:0

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  2. According to Daniel O. Conkle, professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a known proponent of gay rights and same-sex marriage, it is "anything but a 'license to discriminate,' and it should not be mischaracterized or dismissed on that basis." See his editorial in today's edition of the Indianapolis Star for the full context.

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  4. These IU law professors (and others) disagree with Professor Conkle: http://freedomindiana.org/law-scholars-indiana-rfra-more-a-solution-in-search-of-a-problem/

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  5. Oh please, "fair, and balanced, and reasonable" people who I KNEW would show up, because they ALWAYS do... That is how things work in this state. We get some small, incremental victory for diversity, usually through courts as opposed to legislative action. And then a reactionary bill comes up in the next session, clearly intended as a slap-down to any uppity "other" folks who might have thought they were deserving of equal treatment. Let's call the concerns of people, experienced people who know a backlash when they see one, "inflammatory garbage." That's so nice. I'm aware that bills with similar (but differently phrased to try and protect folks, protective phrasing since removed as mentioned helpfully by Michelle, above) were passed in the 90s, co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy, to protect religious minorities. Actual religious minorities, not dominionists with a persecution complex. Talk about unintended consequences. It's now being used for exactly the opposite of its intent. Even if "in phrasing" it's not that bad, those of us who don't fit Pence et al's narrow window of acceptable faith and lifestyle know it's a "you're not welcome in our state" signal.

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    1. Great comment ! Well said!

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  6. Bravo to you sir. I admire your integrity.

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  7. Thank you for taking a stand against discrimination!

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  8. Didn't folks in Indy elect Pence? How about we blame them first.

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  9. Elections are controlled mostly by the ultra wealthy - they determine the candidates. And they flood the airwaves with false rhetoric that unfortunately works because it affects our subconscious minds, it works on emotions and fears. It is difficult for the public to elect anyone worthwhile because of these reasons. Not to say the public is guiltless. Too many do not vote, leaving the election to be decided too often by extremists, who are more willing to vote. So non-voters need to take responsibility for this - not voting gives the rich, the special interests, all who are minorities, more power to control who is in power.

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  10. Thank you Erik for being a person of integrity.

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  11. When I grow up I want to be a writer specifically a travel writer and imagine things in many ways.

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