I’m writing to express support of the anti-discrimination ordinance with no loopholes, including “offsite services.”
One point repeatedly brought up by city councilors is that this ordinance is unnecessary because there have yet to be reports of discrimination of this type in our town. Due to the negative publicity RFRA has given our state, and the lack of action by the state government to pass a state-wide anti-discrimination law, it’s important for leading communities such as ours to act immediately. This is the strongest way we can demonstrate that we’re an open and welcoming city to current and potential residents and businesses. We can’t afford a wait-and-see attitude.
Another point I often hear is that this ordinance is anti-religion. As a country, we believe in the separation of church and state. A church has the right to decide what constitutes a marriage within their religion. A business that serves the public does not have the right to determine who they will or won’t serve. Because we live in a free society, anyone uncomfortable or unable to perform the duties of their job are allowed to find a new job they find more suitable to their beliefs.
In addition, as a Catholic, I find it contrary to the tenets of my religion that any Catholic would deny service to another person. In speaking about the LGBT community, Pope Francis has said, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem… they’re our brothers.” Catholics need to strongly consider these words. Speaking to the Christian community as a whole, you are called to love and serve all. I’m not a theologian by any means, but this basic principle is repeated throughout Christian teachings.
While I do think the ethical and moral reasons against discrimination are paramount, let’s take a moment to consider a business perspective. I worry that a loophole in Carmel’s anti-discrimitaion law allowing wedding vendors who provide offsite services to decline same-sex weddings would harm future business in the city. First, why hold your wedding in Carmel and risk the humiliation and frustration of being denied service when you could just go down the road to Indianapolis, Zionsville, or a number of other towns where that type of discrimination isn’t permitted?
In a broader view of the city, any real or perceived condoning of exclusion will prevent businesses of many types from considering Carmel as a place to start or relocate. Many companies place a high value on diversity and inclusion and seek to foster a family atmosphere. They will absolutely not stand for any of their family to be discriminated against in any manner and will avoid our community if there is any window for exclusion.
Let’s remember the popular hashtag that swept the nation earlier this year: #BoycottIndiana. It wasn’t #BoycottIndianaBusinessesWhoDiscriminateAgainstLGBT. If people were willing to avoid the entire state because of this issue, they won’t have a hard time bypassing the 48.55 square miles that make up our city.
Less than 50 years ago, many states did not allow interracial marriage. Through the lens of time, this seems unfathomable. In another 50 years, when people look back on these “controversial” issues of our time, they are going to think the same thing. Carmel is a progressive city that is changing how the entire country views what a suburb can and should be. Let’s keep it that way by showing how forward-thinking we are. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.
“The time is always right to do what’s right,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Carmel resident and business owner