A Who’s Who of Indiana health and science organizations—from Indiana University Health and Anthem Inc. to Roche Diagnostics and Eli Lilly and Co.—are lining up in support of this week’s Indy Pride Festival, pushing the message that they support diversity and inclusion.
Many of the organizations are longtime supporters of the festival, a week of LGBT pride events in Indianapolis, highlighted by concerts and a parade. But the issue takes on heightened significance in Indiana, which has a history of contention on issues involving gay rights and gender recognition.
This year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill, signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, that established a hate-crime law for the first time. The law says criminals can get stronger penalties if their crimes are motivated by sexual orientation, color, creed and certain other characteristics. Democrats, however, argued that the bill wasn’t strong enough, because it didn’t explicitly include sex or gender identity, but Republicans said the bill’s language covered everyone.
Four years ago, then-Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial law that critics—including some of Indiana’s largest companies and business groups—said would make it legal for people to discriminate under the protection of religious freedom. That law was amended within week’s of its initial signing after an outcry from business, tourism and other groups.
Many health and science organizations, meanwhile, are throwing their support behind the Indiana’s LGBT community and its annual Pride Festival. The festival includes a youth carnival, a movie night and numerous concerts. The highlight is the parade, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon downtown on Saturday with more than 140 floats, vehicles and walking groups.
Nationally, health organizations have been the single largest business sector in pride parades every year since at least 2011, according to the website Gayta Science. Other leading sectors are service, finance, technology and retail.
Many of Indiana’s largest companies are strong supporters of the festival and its mission of celebrating gay pride and bringing the community together. Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. is a sponsor and vendor, and has a large parade unit.
“It simply won’t be possible to connect our medicines without understanding the diverse and unique needs of all communities, including the LGBTQ community,” Lilly CEO Dave Ricks said on a video on the company’s website. “Here at Lilly, we’re very proud of our employee resource groups and proud of the Lilly Pride Group. They’re working to raise their game and helping us understand their needs better.”
IU Health recently posted a feature story on its website highlighting one of its ophthalmic technicians, Anthony Bradburn, who was recently named “Mr. Indy Pride” in a citywide competition, and will wear a sash and medallion at festival events.
A brand-new supporter in the Indianapolis science community is Corteva Agriscience, formerly Dow Agrosciences, which spun off this month as an independently traded company. Its former parents, Dow and DuPont, are both big supporters of gay rights and have received a rating of 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index, published by the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy group that promotes LGBT equality.
Other health and science organizations with parade units this weekend include Community Health Network, Eskenazi Health, Anthem, Covance, the IU School of Medicine and the VA Medical Center.
Notable exceptions are Indianapolis’ two large Catholic hospital systems, Franciscan Health and St. Vincent. Neither organization is on the list of sponsors, vendors or parade units. The two health systems did not return emails to IBJ to comment.
Corporate sponsors for Indy Pride Festival include Eli Lilly and Co., Roche Diagnostics, Eskenazi Health, Covance, Anthem, Corteva Agriscience, Elanco and other health and science organizations. The presenting sponsor is tech company Salesforce.