As co-president of Indianapolis PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends & Allies of Lesbians and Gays), I hear stories of heartbreak as mom after mom tells me about their children leaving because they do not feel welcome in Indiana. We as moms want to be together as a family during important times. However, because our children are moving out at such a feverish pace, we miss out on so much.
Some of us don't get to meet the people our children fall in love with. We travel across the country for weddings, if we can go at all. Some of us miss out on helping to raise our grandchildren. And for you grandmas out there, you know how important this is. We aren't there to celebrate promotions, birthdays, and graduations.
We are Hoosiers and we know that family matters most. But why would our children want to stay in a place that does not welcome them? How can we as moms ask our children to stay when we know that they won't be happy? After all, their happiness is all that matters to us as moms.
We know that Indiana's economy is suffering. We have some of the best and brightest young talent, but many young people have left because of how unwelcoming Indiana feels.
During testimony on HJR-3 (a proposed amendment to Indiana's constitution that would prohibit the freedom to marry for same-sex couples) earlier this year, representatives from Eli Lilly and Cummins confirmed this. They said they're having difficulty attracting employees because candidates don't want to live in a place that doesn't respect them and afford them the benefits they need. Indiana is sending the wrong message, and losing talented workers is collateral damage.
I recently spoke to some parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) children who left Indiana. We talked about the kind of Indiana we want for our children: one that accepts them, welcomes them, and invites them to raise their family here. We are the Moms for a More Welcoming Indiana.
Jean Hayden said that when her husband died last summer, she needed all three of her children close by immediately, but because her gay son lives so far away, that was not possible. He moved because he did not feel like Indiana was the best and safest place for him to live. Judy Straub's son was the first openly gay president of IUSA and graduated with honors from the Kelley School of Business. His dreams of falling in love, getting married, and starting a family are some of the reasons he is happy living outside of Indiana. Judy worries Indiana will never be that place for him.
Ruth Ann Cooper's daughter moved away years ago because she did not feel like Indiana welcomed her. Ruth Ann and her husband Phil have been working to secure her freedom to marry for four years now and resist the urge to ask her to come home to stay until they have succeeded. Cindy Shamy's daughter Chelsea is planning on leaving as soon as she graduates from Purdue. She wants to move to Illinois so she can eventually marry her girlfriend.
Joan Showalter, Jan Nichols, and Sheila Kennedy also told me their stories about their children leaving the state. They join an ever-growing list of moms that watch as their children pack their bags for more welcoming and accepting homes.
I came away from these conversations feeling very sad knowing that with each passing day, Indiana moms are living without their children and grandchildren because the state refuses to live up to its promise of Hoosier Hospitality.
I am writing this to ask Hoosier moms and Hoosier families to think about the displaced sons and daughters of Indiana. Think about these moms who don't see their loved ones because their children have received the message that the place they (used to) call home does not respect them. And think about the major contributions these young people could be making for the betterment of Indiana.