INDIANAPOLIS – Hundreds of people calling for Indiana to add protections for gays and lesbians to the state’s civil-rights laws marched through downtown Indianapolis Saturday, attracting the attention basketball fans attending the NCAA Final Four, some of whom offered the protesters cheers of support.
The march came two days after Indiana lawmakers responded to an uproar over a new religious objections law and tweaked the law to address concerns that it would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
March organizer Dominic Dorsey II told the crowd as it gathered on the steps of the city’s Monument Circle that the Legislature’s move was only a beginning. He said lawmakers now need to add legal protections to state law to prohibit workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“This new language that they’ve added is like stabbing somebody in the back and then pulling it out three inches and saying, ‘You’re all right, right? We’re good now, right?” he told crowd, which shouted back “no!”
Dorsey then led the gathering in chanting “Hoosiers don’t discriminate! — No more Band-Aids masking hate!” as they began a march that carried them several blocks past the city’s business district, bars and restaurants to the Lucas Oil Stadium, home of this year’s men’s Final Four.
Dozens of the marchers carried rainbow flags, American flags and Indiana state flags as well as signs reading “No hate in our state,” ”Equal rights for all” and other messages. Some pushed baby strollers with their children, others had dogs on leashes and many wore blue T-shirts reading “Indy Welcomes All.”
Police officers who blocked intersections so the protesters could march along downtown streets without incident estimated that between 500 and 600 people took part in the march. There were no arrests and the protest was “very peaceful,” said Indianapolis police spokesman Lt. Richard Riddle.
As the crowd approached Lucas Oil Stadium chanting, college basketball fans watched the passing spectacle under cool, sunny skies. Their response to the march was generally positive, with some appearing amused, others cheering the crowd on and many using their smartphone to record the moment.
There were no signs during the march of supporters of Indiana’s religious objections law.
When the marchers began chanting “No hate in our state!” Wisconsin Badgers fan Tammy Holtan Arnol clapped and cheered and then shouted back at the passing procession “No hate in your state!”
The 46-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin, who was in town for Saturday’s semifinal between Wisconsin and Kentucky with her husband and their 7-year-old son, said she believes Indiana’s law was “hateful.”
She said the changes Indiana lawmakers made to the law in response to sharp criticism from around the nation and concerns raised by major corporations was just an effort to obscure the law’s real intentions.
“It was a shallow move to make it seem like it wasn’t to discriminate, but it really was,” she said.
Her 57-year-old husband, Tom Arnol, noted that Wisconsin, like Indiana’s doesn’t have protections for the LGBT community, even though he said many Wisconsin residents want such protections in place.
Outside the Lucas Oil Stadium, openly gay U.S. Army Major Steve Snyder-Hill told the crowd that he’s not from Indiana, but from Ohio. He said he’d thought about that when the crowd was chanting “No hate in our state.”
“I thought, ‘Well this isn’t my state, but then I remembered that I’m in the Army fighting for everybody’s freedom, for everybody’s rights,” he said to cheers. “So it isn’t just our state, it’s all our states that we’re fighting for together.”
Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, said on Saturday that the NCAA should avoid putting future Final Four championships in states that do not protect the rights of gays and lesbians.