The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, October 20, 2021 1:00 am

A full welcome

LGBTQ deserve protections enshrined by law

Thad Gerardot

Indiana is home. It always has been, and I hope it always will be.

All of my fondest memories are here – sitting next to my grandpa in Notre Dame Stadium during the Blue-Gold Game; going off to college at Purdue Fort Wayne; meeting my wonderful husband, and marrying him right here in town, and celebrating at Wunderkammer Company; and today, making a home in the house we bought just steps from downtown, walking together through Foster Park, kayaking on the lakes in the summer and making plans to start a family here together.

I've lived the American dream here in Indiana, and I haven't had to leave the state to do it. But there were times I wondered whether I would have to.

As a gay man, I haven't always felt welcome here. There was an era where we had to fight anti-marriage equality amendments year after year in the state legislature. Those were hard times. I remember witnessing those debates in the Statehouse, watching a hundred straight people debate the value of my life, talking about people like me as if we were less than human.

We've come so far since then.

Marriage equality is the law of the land. Momentum for full LGBTQ equality is building. Public support for federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people is at an all-time high, with 76% of Americans in favor, including 62% of Republicans and a majority in every state in the country.

Now is the time for Congress to pass clear, comprehensive and secure nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans in all 50 states.

In 2014, I ran for Indiana state representative because I knew how important it was for a gay Indiana teenager to see someone openly gay in the Statehouse. Our campaign made history as the first with a gay candidate for Indiana state rep.

We didn't win, but that campaign was a turning point in my life. I met my now-husband Travis that year. In a way, my decision to run was the moment I decided once and for all that Indiana was home – and I wasn't going to let anyone exclude me from my home.

I know that LGBTQ people all across this country can identify with that feeling.

Millions of us still live in states that don't protect our freedoms. A recent survey found that more than one in three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including more than three in five transgender Americans.

Right now, 50% of LGBTQ people live in states that lack comprehensive statewide laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people. While 21 states and more than 350 cities have passed nondiscrimination laws, this patchwork of protections is unsustainable and leaves too many people behind.

Not only is discrimination wrong, it's bad for business.

As someone who works for a large financial company here in Fort Wayne, I know that doing what's best for our people and our economy should be a priority for all of us. Competitiveness for talent requires that the places where we operate our businesses be safe, welcoming and free from discrimination for workers and their families.

Not only that, customers care about supporting businesses that align with their values. In a recent survey, 76% of Americans agreed that companies supporting LGBTQ equality would get more of their business this year.

For these reasons and more, a broad coalition of Indiana businesses supports adding LGBTQ people to our nondiscrimination laws, modernizing those laws for all Americans, harmonizing laws nationwide and codifying Supreme Court decisions to ensure clarity for everyone.

Including LGBTQ people in America's nondiscrimination protections would deliver real value to large and small businesses across Indiana and to national, state and local economies.

Our senators, Todd Young and Mike Braun, should listen to their constituents, show leadership and do everything possible to support the strongest possible LGBTQ federal nondiscrimination protections.

Equality is not a Democratic or Republican value; it's an American value. Everyone should have the freedom to go about their daily lives – go into a store, check into a hotel, eat a meal at a restaurant – without fear of harassment or discrimination.

All of us here in the Hoosier State deserve to know: When we're in Indiana, we're home. 

Thad Gerar-dot is a Fort Wayne resident. 

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