Since some states don't protect LGBTQ people, communities are rallying to offer their own.

You’re getting ready for a date. It’s time to pick the place. Where do you go?

You want to consider price — not too cheap, not too expensive — and ambiance; you want it to be conveniently located, with a good menu and perhaps some alcohol offerings. And if you’re gay in Indiana, you also need to pick somewhere you know you won’t get harassed or downright thrown out.

“Any service provider in Indiana can turn anyone down,” says Amy Shaw, who identifies as a lesbian and has lived in Indiana for the past 14 years. “People get assaulted for being queer. So it’s important to know where those safe places are, where you’ll get served, where people are going to treat you like anyone else.”


In 31 states, including Indiana, it is still legal to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community.That means that people can be turned down for service, thrown out of restaurants, passed over for jobs, or fired from their work simply because the owner of a business has anti-gay beliefs.

[rebelmouse-image 19397640 dam="1" original_size="6776x5082" caption="Photo via Benedikt Geyer/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo via Benedikt Geyer/Unsplash.

For comparison, Indiana does have nondiscrimination laws that protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, color, sex, disability (mental or physical), status as a veteran, national origin and ancestry. But while everyone else is free to navigate society without fear of danger, LGBTQ individuals still have to do the work of figuring out where they’ll be safe.

That’s why now, a small sticker is showing up in storefront windows across the state carrying a big message: “these businesses serve everyone.”

Created by the nonprofit Open for Service, the stickers let people know that even though it’s legal to discriminate, the business is LGBTQ-friendly and won’t turn anyone away on the basis of who they are.

“To us, it’s obvious,” says Sonja Garnett, whose family owns and operates ABC Roofing Company in Indianapolis. “You don’t want anybody to feel like they aren’t gonna be served for any particular reason.”

“I like wearing my badge. I like my thing that says I do support everyone in the community,” says Eric Wilson, who owns Irvington Insurance in Indianapolis, which also sports the sticker, or “badge” as he calls it. “I just said, you know, everyone’s welcome here at my place, even if you’re not welcome in every place.”

Eric Wilson's business. Photo courtesy of Wilson.

“The sticker signals to me that this place is gonna be cool,” says Amy. “They’re not gonna kick somebody out because of their sexual orientation or behave inappropriately. The florist will still sell me flowers, and they’re not gonna force a bunch of pamphlets on you or something like that.”

It’s incredibly important — to customers, companies, and communities at large — for everyone to be allowed to participate in society equally.

On one hand, it’s simply a matter of dignity. “You don’t want them, or anyone, to have to go through something like that, being humiliated because you’re different than someone else,” says Sonja.

But perhaps more importantly, it’s a matter of establishing concrete equality for all people, in all areas of life — not just in marriage, but in business and economy as well. For the same reason that protections exist for racial minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, etc., it’s time to extend those laws to cover LGBTQ Americans and ensure that everyone is operating on a level playing field.

“I’m offering a service, and it’s a public service that everybody needs access to,” says Eric. “Everybody should have equal access to all the things available to us.”

[rebelmouse-image 19397642 dam="1" original_size="700x700" caption="Photo via Oliver Cole/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo via Oliver Cole/Unsplash.

The sticker is a big step in the right direction, but those who use it still admit that they wish they didn’t have to.

People who are straight and not transgendered don’t need to look for signs or stickers to figure out whether they’ll be discriminated against in a store. And if they are discriminated against for their skin color or disability status, they can take legal action and pursue justice.

Sometimes, people wonder why Amy, and others from the LGBTQ community, don’t move to more accepting states with better protections, but Amy is perfectly happy where she is. “I have a lot of really supportive friends and family,” she says. Plus, she adds, the LGBTQ community in Indiana is strong, and she’s proud to be a part of it.

All that Amy wants is for Indiana to give her the same protections and legal options that others around the country count on to feel safe.

And business-owners like Eric and Sonja want that for her, too. But in the meantime, the Open for Business sticker is an effective stop-gap that can help make life easier for LGBTQ people from Indiana while they wait for state laws to catch up..

“I wear the sticker because it’s necessary for those other people,” says Eric. “I want everybody to be welcome. But you have to have the sticker on the door, because there are people who aren’t like me.”

“It shouldn’t be necessary,” says Sonja. “But sadly it is, because there are people out there who are discriminatory.”

The LGBT community and allies continue to fight for legal protection against discrimination. But in the meantime, the sticker — and the people who use it — have a big impact.

Sonja Garnett and her family. Photo courtesy of Garnett.

Human rights groups are working toward adding gender and sexual identity to existing nondiscrimination laws in the 31 states that remain in need of legal protection for LGBTQ groups. Smaller municipalities are adding nondiscrimination laws to the books in order to protect people in their own towns and counties.

“I want comprehensive hate crime legislation,” says Amy. “That way, people have recourse to protect themselves.”

But while she and the Indiana LGBTQ community await broader legislation protecting against discrimination, it’s people like Sonja and Eric that continue to make Indiana the place that Amy considers home.

“We stand behind people who are seen as ‘different,’” says Sonja. “We got the sticker to show that we support them. So they know that somebody stands behind them.”

True

From the time she was a little girl, Abby Recker loved helping people. Her parents kept her stocked up with first-aid supplies so she could spend hours playing with her dolls, making up stories of ballet injuries and carefully wrapping “broken” arms and legs.

Recker fondly describes her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a simple place where people are kind to one another. There’s even a term for it—“Iowa nice”—describing an overall sense of agreeableness and emotional trust shown by people who are otherwise strangers.

Abby | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Driven by passion and the encouragement of her parents, Recker attended nursing school, graduating just one year before the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic. One year into her career as an emergency and labor and delivery nurse, everything she thought she knew about the medical field got turned upside down. That period of time was tough on everyone, and Nurse Recker was no exception.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

The Emperor of the Seas.

Imagine retiring early and spending the rest of your life on a cruise ship visiting exotic locations, meeting interesting people and eating delectable food. It sounds fantastic, but surely it’s a billionaire’s fantasy, right?

Not according to Angelyn Burk, 53, and her husband Richard. They’re living their best life hopping from ship to ship for around $44 a night each. The Burks have called cruise ships their home since May 2021 and have no plans to go back to their lives as landlubbers. Angelyn took her first cruise in 1992 and it changed her goals in life forever.

“Our original plan was to stay in different countries for a month at a time and eventually retire to cruise ships as we got older,” Angelyn told 7 News. But a few years back, Angelyn crunched the numbers and realized they could start much sooner than expected.

Keep Reading Show less
True

It takes a special type of person to become a nurse. The job requires a combination of energy, empathy, clear mind, oftentimes a strong stomach, and a cheerful attitude. And while people typically think of nursing in a clinical setting, some nurses are driven to work with the people that feel forgotten by society.

Keep Reading Show less

We're dancing along too.

Art can be a powerful unifier. With just the right lyric, image or word, great art can soften those hard lines that divide us, helping us to remember the immense value of human connection and compassion.

This is certainly the case with “Pasoori,” a Pakistani pop song that has not only become an international hit, it’s managed to bring the long divided peoples of India and Pakistan together in the name of love. Or at least in the name of good music.
Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

A couple enjoying a glass of wine.

In the 1988 Disney classic “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” the titular character is in an unlikely relationship with his voluptuous wife Jessica. Roger is a frantic, anxious rabbit with a penchant for mischief, while Jessica is a quintessential ’40s bombshell who stands about a foot and a half taller and isn’t “bad,” just “drawn that way.”

When private investigator Eddie Valiant asked Jessica what she sees in “that guy?” she replies, “He makes me laugh.”

This type of couple may seem like something we only see in the movies, but don’t underestimate the power of humor when it comes to attractiveness. A new study published in Evolutionary Psychology found that being humorous is the most effective way to flirt for both men and women.

Keep Reading Show less