Indy Mayor Hogsett Welcomes Diversity


On the day he was to honor a memory of local civil rights history by speaking at the annual Landmark for Peace Memorial park in the near-north side of Indianapolis, in commemoration of the April 4, 1968 appearance by Robert F. Kennedy who announced to the gathered audience the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the thoughts of Mayor Joe Hogsett were focused on his own history of human rights experiences, as well as his intentions for developing and maintaining basic rights for the LGBT community of Central Indiana.

What has been your history of awareness and understanding of the experiences of the local LGBT community?

Throughout the entirety of my public life as an elected official, having previously served as Indiana Secretary of State, I have tried to be a public advocate and be outspoken for the human rights for all citizens. Here in Indianapolis, we have had the benefit of a Human Rights ordinance for ten years now, which I joined in celebrating with former Mayor’s Peterson and Ballard in December. Frankly, since beginning my campaign for mayor and in the three months I have served, I have been intentional in being available to all aspects of our community, including the annual Indy Pride event, which is one of my favorite festivals.

There have been several stages where my passion for equal rights for all citizens has been accelerated and my awareness raised. First would be the debate surrounding the City human rights ordinance ten years ago, when all of the “horrible results” that were predicted have not manifested. Then we had the efforts in the Indiana General Assembly to amend the constitution regarding same-sex marriage, which was thankfully defeated. There were also the series of court cases that have now given our country the direction we have needed.  Most recently, there was the entire RFRA debacle, and the logical extension of how that debate has affected the Indianapolis LGBT community and the community at large.

If we are to continue to aspire to be a destination city for talented people and evolve economically, then we need to sound the clarion call that Indianapolis remains a diverse community that welcomes all. And ultimately, I think that we as citizens of this city need to continue to be active participants in bringing about these kinds of changes for the entirety of the State of Indiana.

Given the actions taken in other states around the country, how do you see yourself and this administration having impact at the state level here in Indiana?

The truth is that economic development in the 21st Century is all about recruiting talented people. I think the role of mayors throughout Indiana is to maintain efforts to heighten the perceptions of communities as being hospitable to all people, and to inform our legislators that the protection of rights needs to be extended to all residents of our state through civil rights laws. Here in metropolitan Indianapolis, inclusive of the contiguous counties, we are the economic engine that drives Central Indiana, if not the broader state. Indianapolis has to be the beacon in furthering the progress of civil rights. When the Indianapolis mayor goes through the halls of the General Assembly and speaks on these issues, I think that the Representatives know that this voice embodies the voices of other mayors as well. How that translates into success critically depends on all mayors’ working together to convince their local Representatives about how critical these issues are.

Beyond economic development, are there aspects at a more human level that you envision for the future?

At the end of the day, I think that Indianapolis finds strength in diversity. When we are at our best and enjoying what we all aspire for in a sense of community, it is only achievable when everyone appreciates that we find our greatest identity in how accepting and open we are. I am old enough to recall that Indianapolis has evolved from being a very ethnically homogenous community into a more divergent population – this resulting from the outstanding leadership of my predecessors, and the more recent increase in international representation. We now have a different city than the one I was introduced to when growing up in Rushville in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

And this progress has been exemplified in the LGBT community as well. As I look at the transformation of the Indy Pride festival from its origins, I see it as an example of a grass-roots initiative for effecting change, and I see that as a result, Indianapolis has changed. This is in keeping with our character and our heritage.

In this annual season of Pride, what is your message to the local LGBT community?

The general message is that Pride is an important acknowledgement and recognition of our growth, a festive celebration that should be celebrated 365 days a year. While we come together at a designated time of year, and it is good to come together as a community, it is equally important that we remain vigilant about the work that is still to be done for the human rights, equal rights and the civil rights of all Hoosiers, in all ways, every single day of the year.

Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office.