Let “Religious” Freedom Ring

Meghan Buell founder of T.R.E.E.S. and columnist for OUT in Michigan City Photo: Facebook

Happy Pride !!!

Wow, it is June already. It seems like winter just ended and now we are almost half way through Pride Month. A lot has happened since I last wrote. The first half of the year has kept me busy either teaching or traveling for TREES, Inc. (www.webetrees.org). Some thing that happened recently has caused an itch to get under my skin, so, I would like to share some thoughts on it. It is the recent SCOTUS ruling about “the baker”.

For those not in the know, in short, SCOTUS ruled that a baker in Colorado was unjustly “sanctioned” by the local human right commission/ordinance there. However, the ruling has been used as a tool to inspire some folks to think they can openly discriminate with “religious freedom” as the tool for this discrimination. My first, and most significant reaction is “Oy.” In fact, that may be as far as I should go with any reaction, but I won’t.

In my view, if someone wants to discriminate they will. It is only when there is a definitive or blatant record of it can much be done to debate which side is right. We are not at this point yet. See, someone’s “firmly held religious belief” has not been define and in many cases defining it is being avoided. By defining it, those who declare this defense for discrimination would actually be held to some level of accountability. Being held accountable would then mean they would have to show a true conviction to their religious faith. Right now, it is a wide open can of “pick and choose” religious doctrine adherence. Spew a bible verse when it is convenient and works for you. When challenged on other verses, side step them by declaring them obsolete. Wow, what a nice easy tool to be just plain old bigoted. And, as lower courts begin to rule in favor of “religious freedom” there starts to be legal precedent for upholding carte blanche discrimination. This should scare us all.

I mention to folks sometimes that I would love the opportunity to used these rulings to prove a point. I would like to open a restaurant and have the chance to ask people, or just make a blind assumption, about their sexual orientation of gender identity in the hopes that when they answer as straight or cisgender (not really thinking they would know that term but you get it) so I can channel Seinfeld’s The Soup Nazi by saying, “No Soup for You!”. Of course, this would probably land me in the news. In the end, this would be a terrible business model and I’d probably go out of business in short order, unless, I incorporate as an IRS 501c3 Religious Organization. Hmmm? Anyone want to join a board of directors? LOL

In conclusion, talking about religious freedom and discrimination is not going to go far. Actions will speak louder than words on this one. Go out and prove a point in whatever manner you wish, because, until this can is closed, it’s a free(dom) for all. Walk proudly as your authentic self and when someone challenges you to prove your authenticity just say “no proof required due to my religious freedom” and see how they react. Good Day.

Happy Pride !!!

Why We Need Gay PRIDE Festival

I have it on pretty good authority that Michigan City is going to have its first gay PRIDE festival this summer. Why this summer? Why now and not years ago? Why do it at all? I mean can’t we just go to Chicago for PRIDE? The answer is simple, yes we can but why would we want to or better yet why should we have to?

PRIDE month means different things to different people, just ask the Michigan City PRIDE committee, a haphazard group of people thrown together to make the impossible possible. A group consisting of a reluctant drag queen, a PFLAG mom, a gay husband and father, a straight alley, a politically incorrect smart ass who thinks he can write and his husband the social worker with little patience for things like committees. I’m the politically incorrect smart ass if you were wondering. I can’t say what PRIDE means to the other committee members, I can hazard a guess, but I can only speak to what PRIDE means to me and why the time has come for Michigan City to let its freak flag fly.

For many years I made it a point to go to Chicago for PRIDE. It started with an ex-boyfriend in 2000 and his friend Jeremy who ironically is now my friend. Jeremy and I always had a sort of frenemies type relationship. We could both be back biting and borderline insulting to each other, at first out of general annoyance of each other but now it’s out of love. It was one of Jeremy’s back biting antics that got me on the Channel 9 news my first year of PRIDE after he had heard one of the last things my mom had said to me before we embarked on that particular adventure was “I better NOT see your ass on the news.” Jeremy saw the news crew interviewing bystanders and quickly called them over screaming “OVER HERE, OVER HERE, SHE WANTS TO BE ON THE NEWS!” That was the beginning of many years of fun and debauchery at the Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade. Over the years my life had changed, but the one constant was going to Chicago for PRIDE the last weekend of June.  Oh, and my mom was not pleased that I ended up on Channel 9.

The last Chicago PRIDE that we actually attended was June 24, 2012. Our best friend came home from Florida. That weekend in Chicago was perfect. We partied all weekend and watched the parade from the street in front of our hotel. It was as if the fates knew that this would be our last PRIDE in Chicago, our favorite band Scissor Sisters played at the Vic (it was to be their final tour) right there in Boystown after the parade. It was the perfect PRIDE at least for me and then I was done, there would never be another PRIDE weekend like that one.

For many years gay PRIDE weekend started out as an excuse for me to party. As the years went on it became so much more. Seeing gay soldiers march in uniform for the first time after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed or LGBT affirming synagogues and churches march along with PFLAG. Gay parents marching with their children or gay children and their supportive parents. That last year was the first year that I actually watched the parade from start to finish from the street, not on live on TV from inside a bar. I found out that the gay PRIDE Parade was more than just half naked GoGo dancers or dykes on bikes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For the first time I was actually paying attention, PRIDE was about real people with real lives out celebrating their right to love and marry who they wanted.

Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community most likely dating back to 1861 when Harriet Colfax took over as the Michigan City lighthouse keeper. According to digthedunes.com, when Miss Colfax moved into the lighthouse her friend and longtime companion Ann C. Hartwell moved in with her. They lived there together for the rest of their lives. As I’ve reported before in an article I did a couple of years ago featuring local drag troupe Welcome to the Other Side, the Williams Institute ranks Michigan City fourth in Indiana for the highest percentage of same-sex couples. I like to tell people that I can’t swing a stick in this town without hitting a fellow homo. That being said Michigan City’s PRIDE celebration is long past due and with our town right on the lake and all the other amenities we have to offer we can definitely hold our own when it comes to throwing a party. For those people who are undoubtedly going to try to compare our PRIDE to Chicago’s and say things like “It’s not like it is in Chicago,” I’m going to tell you now that it’s not supposed to be. We’re taking this celebration and making it our own so thank you Chi Town for letting us come over and join you for your PRIDE celebration it’s been fun, but this year we got this.

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake. Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th, 2018 from 1-9pm in the historic Uptown Arts District.