“The people, united, will never be divided!” Is one of the many chants that filled the Indiana Statehouse halls, as almost four hundred people gathered to rally against House Bill 1608. The bill aims to ban discussion of human sexuality in schools, and mandate reports about a student’s change in identity to their parents. There were people from all over the state that made the drive that morning, people from Bloomington and even Fort Wayne.
At 7:40 a.m. I entered the statehouse for the first time. Shepherded into a crowd on the third floor. I ended up in front of a large monitor, which was projecting what was happening inside the chamber. There were photographers and reporters from various news sources, and everyone was sporting posters provided by the ACLU. Police stood in front of the doors, surrounded by the rainbow posters of the people who were seated in the chamber.
“We say gay!” Was the most popular chant of the morning. One scattered half of the crowd would yell “We say gay!” While the others shouted “Gay!” In response. The floor shook from the people stomping in unison to the chant. People would switch which one they did, I would switch when my throat began to hurt, but it became less noticeable over time.
By the time that the hearing for the House Bill 1608 began, the chanting from the halls was so loud, no more could be heard from the speakers. People were on their phones to watch the closed captioning from the live stream, it was chaos. I was standing next to a young kid, a pastor, and other students from Bloomington who were sporting makeshift capes from their pride flags. It was the kind of environment where we trusted those near us to know information about the bill that others did not, and it felt empowering. The chants circulated for the duration of four hours that people stood in the hallway.
The chant of “We won’t go, hell no!” started up. There was a moment during that chant, where I realized that saying ‘hell’ in the statehouse was not a thing I thought I would ever do. When the testimony began, the people in the hallway quieted. No longer was there an endless sequence of chants. However, when Michelle Davis began to speak, everything changed. Booing and shouting was happening all around me, the noise was deafening.
When the pastors testified in opposition to the bill, I laughed, and the pastor standing next to me was grinning, because they had brought all these religious leaders to the statehouse to show support for us. Pastors came wearing rainbows and crosses, and it was amazing. Never before had I been exposed to progressive Christianity, and the testimony appeared to energize the protesters.
Halfway through the fourth hour, the large monitor with the projection of the chamber went black, by then only a third of the original crowd was still there, and they began to chant, “let us see!” And everyone cheered when the live stream turned back on. After the testimonies, no one outside the chamber was able to hear the vote due to the volume of the people booing. I later learned while traveling back to Bloomington, that the bill was passed 9 to 4 because the legislators represent the people, but the people working together to be heard were drowned out by their own political agendas.
Editor’s note: Since Monday, the Indiana Senate passed SB480 through committee, which would deny transition healthcare to minors, and the house passed a bill to defund the Kinsey’s Institute. The GOP is also taking aim at books in schools and universities with SB12, which would allow parents of students at universities to have workers charged with felonies for providing books they deem, “harmful” to minors.
Several more anti-transgender laws are making their way through the legislature, and the Indiana ACLU is tracking the bills: