Gay pride celebration thwarted by “neanderthal” lawmakers.
By Barbi Martinez, Blurt Intern
With the recent passage of that so-called “religious freedom” law in Indiana—yes, THAT law, the odious one which gives bigots a free pass when it comes to dealing with the public—everyone from Apple CEO Tim Cook (who wrote a widely-circulated editorial condemning the law) to Wilco (who cancelled an upcoming concert in Indianapolis, calling it “thinly veiled legal discrimination”) to even Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, who indicated he feels it is misguided and should be “repealed or revised” has joined the anti-law/pro-civil rights chorus currently being heard nationwide. We here at BLURT are part of that chorus.
Last night in South Bend, Indiana, however, a stark reminder that not everyone is as progressive-minded as Ballard, Cook or Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy was on display at a concert featuring indie rockers Tegan & Sara, American Idolist (and aspiring politician) Clay Aiken and classic rock legend Melissa Etheridge, all openly gay. The event, billed as “Rainbow Rockers Against Discrimination,” was slated to start at 7pm at the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend and a crowd of substantial size had gathered outside awaiting entry when the doors were to open at 6:30 (it was advertised as a general admission show). At the last minute, however, employees of the Center manning the doors and ticket booth refused to open the venue, citing “an objection based on our Christian religion” to the event—or more specifically, to the individuals who wanted to attend the event.
“The law specifically says we don’t have to let ‘em in if our religious convictions dictate it,” stated Clyde Waterhaus, the head usher at the Center. “Personally I don’t have anything against any of those kids outside, but as a Christian, I can’t accept doing anything that supports a deviant, un-Christian homosexual lifestyle. I mean, just look at those two twin gals [Tegan & Sara] and that American Idol guy and their hair styles—they’re as queer as you can get!”
(Below: usher Waterhaus was photographed shortly before he knocked a photographer’s camera to the ground)
With the doors to the Center remaining locked, Waterhaus and the rest of his staff stood impassively in the lobby, occasionally pointing and smirking at the crowd outside, which continued to grow in size. At several points a chant broke out, and a few makeshift signs were spotted being hoisted and waved at the cameras of a local television station that had arrived expecting to cover the event. By 8:30 pm, with no end in sight for the standoff, the crowd was getting unruly, and Center security was becoming visibly uncomfortable. Eventually the South Bend police were called to maintain the order, although they did not issue calls for the crowd to disperse. Police captain Franklin Beem, talking to a television reporter, noted that “while the employees of the Morris Center are well within their rights to refuse entry—that’s what the law says, and I’m pledged to uphold the law—those kids over there are also within their rights to protest just as long as nothing gets broke[n] and no one is injured.”
Unexpectedly, around 9:30 Tegan, Sara, Aiken and Etheridge all came out via the stage doors bearing guitars and proceeded to serenade the crowd acoustically. The combined music and show of solidarity seemed to have the desired effect of calming things down. The stripped-down and truncated show — which featured stirring renditions of “We Shall Overcome” and, somewhat oddly, “Son of a Preacher Man” — lasted for about an hour and a half, the performers also indicating that anyone who had purchased a ticket could obtain a refund once the logistics were worked out. Waterhaus, who later would be spotted changing the marquee of the Morris Center to display an upcoming Loretta Lynn show, said he would refuse to open the ticket booth for the purposes of refunds, claiming that he objected on religious grounds to handing money to anyone who “supports queers and their deviant homosexual lifestyles.”
Speaking to one of the reporters, Aiken (above) stated unequivocally, “This is outrageous. And the legislature back in North Carolina, is considering a similar law. I’m personally ashamed for my home state.” Tegan (or Sara; there apparently was some confusion on that point) added, “Nobody should be discriminated against like this. It’s an outrage, and I am personally offended. The neanderthal lawmakers who crafted this law should be rounded up, herded to the town square, and tarred & feathered. I call on fellow artists and musicians throughout America to stand up and be heard on this matter.”
UPDATE: This morning just before Blurt went to press an official boycott of the state of Indiana was announced by a coalition of musicians that includes Tegan & Sara, Aiken and Etheridge along with Wilco, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Steve Earle and Billy Bragg—Bragg, of course, not being a U.S. citizen but has long been identified with social causes. Calling themselves Artists Against Animosity (or AAA for short), their official website can be viewed HERE.