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HETRICK: Two friends of a different color walk into an Indiana bar

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Bruce Hetrick
A straight black guy (we’ll call him SBG) and a gay white dude (dub him GWD) walk into a bar. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not. For these longtime friends and family men, it’s one hour after work on a Friday afternoon following a week of momentous Supreme Court decisions.



SBG: Bro!

GWD: Bro!

SBG: High five, man!

GWD: High five and fist jab back at ya.

(They exchange a two-step secret handshake they developed and perfected during college days.)

SBG: Helluva week, man. Keisha’s on my case about the lawn. Marcus hates summer camp and wants to come home. And my division’s down 3 percent for the first half of the year. I don’t know how to squeeze any more blood out of that turnip.

GWD: The joys of management.

SBG: How goes it with you?

GWD: On the home front, good. Rodney’s business is booming. Ashley’s loving soccer. But the big news for us was the Supreme Court decisions this week. Gay rights on high! We’ve never felt so liberated in our lives. We might even go to California and get married.

SBG: Yeah, the Supremes did the two-step this week: Good news for you gay folks. Bad news for us black folks. And if you do that wedding thing, Keisha and I wanna be there.

GWD: Thanks, man. But I really don’t get it. One day, the Supremes say times have changed. Discrimination is on the wane. So people of color don’t need protecting any more.

SBG: Goodbye Voting Rights Act. Hello voter suppression.

GWD: Then the next day, they turn around and say there’s a whole lot of discrimination going on—so when states allow, anyone can love and marry anyone and we’re entitled to quote-unquote “equal protection under the law.”

SBG: One giant leap for mankind, my friend. One giant leap for mankind. But I’m afraid you’re now gonna find out what we all found out a long time ago—that when it comes to legal protection, some people are more equal than others.

GWD: Yeah, like people in other states are more equal than we are in the Hoosierland.

SBG: Hooterville.

GWD: Hoosier daddy!?

SBG: I don’t know, but he better be straight, ‘cause according to the powers that be influencing the Indiana legislature—and Governor Mike—you gay folks “dwine know nuffin ‘bout raising no babies.”

GWD: Tell that to Ashley. And speaking of Ashley, thanks for the “Gone With the Wind” impersonation.

SBG: I try.

GWD: So now what?

SBG: So now Indiana becomes the role model for both of us. God forbid.

GWD: How so?

SBG: Well, all those states that were prohibited by the feds from suppressing votes can now make like Indiana and impose voter I.D. laws and other rigmarole—all in the name of eliminating non-existent voter fraud.

GWD: Ooh, that’s right! Gotta keep you people of color away from the polls.

SBG: That’s right, indeed, brother. Just like we gotta keep you gay folks from altering the altar and maligning our heterosexual marriages.

GWD: We’re scary that way, I know. And to think: You straight folks are doing such a fine job with your relationships, what with your 50 percent divorce rate, and all.

SBG: We are, indeed, a paragon of matrimonial virtue. But hey, look on the bright side: Consider the precedent you gay folks can set here in Indiana.

GWD: How’s that?

SBG: Well, constitutions and constitutional amendments are nearly always about granting rights—the right to practice the religion you choose, the right to free speech, the right to a free press, the right to bear arms, the right of women and men to vote, etc. These kinds of rights are generally granted to everyone equally, too.

GWD: Except, of course, when you folks were counted as three-fifths of a person.

SBG: Except that. But if Indiana puts a constitutional ban on gay marriage, it will be one of the only times the constitution is used to deny a right—and specifically for one tiny subset of the citizenry. And you are the beneficiaries of this special dispensation.

GWD: Lucky us. We are the Freddy Kruegers of the human race.

SBG: Aliens.

GWD: Kryptonite.

SBG: Snakes on a plane.

GWD: Rosemary’s baby-daddy.

SBG: Yessir, brother. Franklin D. Roosevelt had it wrong.

GWD: How do you figure?

SBG: The only thing to fear isn’t fear itself. It’s gay folks entering into monogamous relationships with other gay folks and sealing the deal with civil ceremonies.

GWD: I guess we’d better have separate water fountains and restrooms, too.

SBG: Be careful, bro. This is Indiana. Don’t give them any ideas.•

__________

Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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