A look at government support for Pride month — or lack thereof

The Indiana Department of Correction is the only state agency to highlight Pride

By: - June 19, 2023 7:00 am

The Indiana Department of Correction added a Pride flag to its logo on Facebook. (Screenshot)

Add state and local government to the list of entities struggling to deal with growing tension over Pride month.

In the past few months, several major companies have come under fire for expressing support for the LGBTQ+ community, whether it’s Budweiser’s partnership with a transgender influencer, Target’s annual section of Pride-themed merchandise during June or a rainbow rocking chair at Cracker Barrel. 

In response to the backlash, many companies folded. Budweiser was criticized for failing to defend the very influencer they hired while Target began pulling Pride items from the shelves. Cracker Barrel’s public support for Pride has remained, but the decision drew a solemn tweet from the Texas Family Project: “We take no pleasure reporting that Cracker Barrel has fallen.”

In the Hoosier state, a miniature version of the national culture wars have played out on the social media profiles of government entities, with one unexpectedly supportive state agency emerging: the Indiana Department of Correction.

IDOC bucks trend of other state agencies with Pride posts

Of the handful of state agencies with a Facebook page, IDOC is the only agency with posts about Pride month. In fact, the agency has changed its profile picture to have a Pride flag in the background of the logo. 

The Capital Chronicle reached out to nine other state agencies about their policies surrounding Pride month and social media messaging. None had specific plans to celebrate the month or policies directing them how to message about the month. 

The silence on Pride month comes after the Indiana General Assembly passed a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, strengthened restrictions on school library books deemed obscene and will soon require parental notification when a student asks to go by a different name or pronoun in school. 

The reception to IDOC’s post was mixed. One commenter applauded the department’s recognition of diversity, while others questioned why a state agency was posting about “personal beliefs.”

An Indiana Department of Correction booth at Indy Pride earlier this month. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“You want to prove your support for diversity? Change it to the Christian flag next! I bet you won’t,” one commenter wrote. 

The post is nothing new for the department, which highlighted LGBTQ+ members of the department on social media last June and had a booth at the Indy Pride Festival this year. 

In a statement to the Capital Chronicle, IDOC said the department “strives to be an inclusive workplace by supporting our diverse staff of more than 5,000 people throughout the state with programs and groups such as IDOC-Out. IDOC-Out, which was formed in 2021, is comprised of IDOC employees who identify as and/or support the LGBTQ+ community.”

The governor’s office confirmed the state has no specific policies for Pride month, but the governor did send a letter welcoming people to Indy Pride in 2017.

“We haven’t made a habit of singling out months,” Holcomb told the Capital Chronicle. “We let agencies for the most part, unless it crosses an egregious line, share messages themselves and I haven’t had to intervene yet.”

Previous governors have also sent letters to Indy Pride, including former governor Mike Pence in 2015 and Mitch Daniels in 2005. 

Pence’s letter came in the wake of backlash against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and was criticized for not specifically mentioning the LGBTQ+ community. Daniels’ letter made clear the celebration was about acceptance of people’s differences, including gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Local governments split on support for Pride on social media

On a local level, decisions on whether or not to publicly support Pride on social media have generated controversy. 

At the start of Pride month, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook — a Republican — directed his staff to remove a Pride post on the city’s Facebook page after it had been up for less than a day, telling the IndyStar that he felt the government should “remain neutral on these social issues.” Cook did not respond to the Capital Chronicle’s requests for comment. 

However, Westfield’s Republican-run neighbor, Carmel, received an outpouring of support from the community for its Pride post. The post received hundreds of positive comments, with some commenters tagging Westfield’s Facebook page

Beyond social media support, Carmel has been known for being one of the few places in Indiana to pass laws protecting LGBTQ+ people. In 2015, Carmel mayor Jim Brainard introduced and passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that included protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Some cities with Democratic mayors have varying levels of public support for the LGBTQ community. 

Bloomington, for example, has not posted about Pride at all so far, although the city’s social media accounts have published posts this month about National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Juneteenth. 

Fort Wayne, also led by a Democratic mayor, has not posted about Pride on Facebook, but said, “Love is Love. Happy Pride Month,” on its Twitter page. The majority of the comments on the post were negative. 

“We hope that every person in Fort Wayne feels respected, valued and appreciated. We will not tolerate discrimination in any form on any basis, including sexual orientation. Everyone should feel like they belong here in Fort Wayne,” John Perlich, Fort Wayne’s spokesman, said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. 

Indianapolis has posted about Pride on Instagram and Facebook and Mayor Joe Hogsett attended both the parade and festival on June 10. 

In a statement to the Capital Chronicle, the Indianapolis mayor’s office said the city will always welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ people. 

“We do think it’s important to make sure residents and visitors feel that sense of welcome, whether it’s during Pride Month or throughout the year. That includes through social media posts, or having an entry at the Pride parade and festival, or regular engagement with the LGBTQ+ community across city services.”

Shortly before the Pride parade, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department announced the rollout of a Pride-themed vehicle for the month, a decision that was organized by officers and funded by the Indy Public Safety Foundation — not taxpayer dollars. 

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Marissa Meador
Marissa Meador

Marissa studied political science and journalism at IU and worked at the Indiana Daily Student as a news editor and reporter. At the IDS, she's covered city government and breaking news.

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