by Eben Griger
An Indianapolis tech entrepreneur warned that Indiana’s refusal to protect its LGBTQ+ population through legislation helps solidify the state’s public image as “the land of bigots” in an open letter Tuesday.
Josh Driver, CEO of tech start-up Selfless.ly and the man behind Open for Service, released “an open letter to the state of Indiana,” in response to the state’s failure to pass a hate crime bill in the form of Senate Bill 418. Indiana remains one of five states without such a bill, which increases the penalties for crimes influenced by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
In the letter, Driver addresses Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which turns three this year, calling it “disastrous,” but also recognizing the RFRA as “the wakeup call technology companies needed to find their voice.” According to Driver, the legacy of the RFRA along with the lack of a hate crime bill may drive people and companies away from Indiana, Amazon in particular.
Indianapolis is one of the final choices for Amazon’s HQ2, which the New York Times says could boost the economy by $50 billion. While the the impact of the RFRA seems to be dissipating, Driver says the state’s lack of “common sense legislation” may become an issue for state growth.
“Personally, as the founder of a tech startup, I want to know that Indiana has my back. You can give me tax credits and incentives all day long, but I’m looking for authentic support. I need to know that the tech talent I need to grow my business is welcomed here.”
Andrew Hurst, a trans Ball State student, echoed much of the same sentiment.
“I have a lot of trouble with it, living here and trying to be proud of where I live,” Hurst said. “Loving the people here and also knowing that there are many people who don’t want to acknowledge my rights or my safeties.”
Driver ends his open letter with “Hoosier hospitality is still alive and well. It just needs to come out of the closet.” Hurst has the same idea when it comes to the times changing in the Hoosier state, but also has some reservations.
“While I’m very disappointed in Indiana, I also think that this too will pass,” Hurst said. “The problem is the amount of damage that will be done while we wait for that.”
Driver’s open letter has shown the importance of state legislators. To find out who your Indiana state legislators, go here to learn more.
Image(s): Huffington Post