Photo: Protesters gather outside the Indiana Supreme Court on June 30, 2023. Credit: Indianapolis Liberation Center.
by Noah Leininger
Hoosiers concerned about the recent legislative assaults on LGBTQ people nationally as well as broader attacks against working and oppressed people rallied at the Indiana Supreme Court on June 30. The protest was originally scheduled to take place in front of Governor Holcomb’s Mansion but was moved to the Indiana Supreme Court in response to the state’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of Indiana’s abortion ban announced the same day. Organizers with PSL Indianapolis, an all-volunteer organization funded solely by donations, moved the action to the Indiana Supreme Court to connect the recent “slate of hate” to other ongoing and historical attacks against progressive gains we’ve won through decades of organized people’s struggle.
The slate of hate is a comprehensive assault on LGBTQ people in Indiana that most severely attacks trans people, one that is as complex as it is comprehensive. Before delving into the details, however, it’s important to situate this with a longer historical context and with a broader political framework in mind.
This assault on our class is part of a larger counter-offensive against the gains made by progressive and socialist movements worldwide during the 20th century. Particularly since the early 1980s, long-established concessions our class forced from the U.S. ruling class have been under attack. Recently, the right wing has intensified its anti-worker campaign, as evidenced by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the legality of abortion for almost 50 years, just a year ago. More recent victories are also under threat, like the right to gay marriage won less than a decade ago, in 2015. Making sense of these attacks requires grasping that they are one prong of the capitalists’ ongoing offensive against the working class in its totality, including racist attacks on Black workers and minority nationalities, misogynistic attacks on women workers, and religious attacks against Jewish and Muslim workers.
Divide and conquer
The goal of the capitalist class is to get sectors of the working class to fight these battles. They are too small and too weak to take us on themselves, and so they spend billions of dollars and enormous amounts of effort to convince us that our enemies are other workers who are different from us instead of those who are truly responsible for our exploitation and oppression: the capitalist ruling class.
In the past few years, the capitalist class across the US has put LGBTQ people in their crosshairs. Astroturfed groups like “Gays Against Groomers” and cynical grifters even seek to divide LGBTQ people against one another. For all the talk of an “LGBTQ community,” these developments show us there is not one united community, but rather LGBTQ working and oppressed people locked in struggle with a capitalist ruling class that includes a handful of LGBTQ individuals. The interests of working and oppressed trans women are opposed by the interests of Caitlyn Jenner, despite their superficially similar identities. Locally, Zach Adamson is celebrated by the Indy Democrats as the first openly gay Councilor, but Adamson defended the presence of IMPD at Pride and calls the members of the community who organized to kick the cops out of Pride in 2020 “divisive.” These people are not people we can unite with, despite their identity, because of their class allegiance.
Under capitalism, the capitalist class is the ruling class: a clique of those who own our workplaces and steal the surplus value created by their workers. The Catholic Church was one of the ruling classes of the previous mode of production, feudalism, owing to their ownership of vast tracts of land alongside the secular aristocracy. Patriarchy, male dominance, is the oldest class formation, which lorded over the origins of the family, private property, and the state itself in what Engels called “the world historical defeat” of women. Of these class formations, capitalism—ownership of the means of production by capitalists and their exploitation of masses of wage workers—is the dominant class relationship today. No one pledges homage to the local liege-lord, promising to bring rent-corn and give military service, like in the feudal era. But the political power of churches, which themselves act as capitalists through their continued ownership of land and employment of workers on a capitalist basis, continues even as the secular feudal aristocracy has fallen away in favor of a secular financial aristocracy. And patriarchy, though it has morphed and changed with the thousands of years of class war it has endured, is still visible in the attacks on reproductive care and in the war against oppressed genders.
As Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto, “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” The bourgeoisie is willing to accept some women, like Susan Collins or Hillary Clinton; some gay and trans people, like Zach Adamson or Caitlyn Jenner; some Black people, like Barack Obama or Tim Scott. They put these differences aside within their class but stoke these divides among the workers to keep us from uniting and organizing as a class the way they have.
What is the so-called slate of hate?
With all of that in mind, let’s look at the laws that made up the “slate of hate.” We’ll start with laws that you may not have heard of before.
Senate Bill 350 permits unlicensed gender identity and sexual orientation conversion “therapy,” so-called, and blocks local governments from prohibiting or requiring licensed care. This is in direct response to West Lafayette seeking to block conversion therapy conducted by Faith Church, a megachurch operating across multiple campuses in the Lafayette area. There has been no legal challenge to block this law.
House Bill 1569 prohibits the Indiana Department of Corrections from providing gender affirming care to incarcerated people. There are previous lawsuits against the state for similar prohibitions, but they are pending, and this new law has not been challenged.
House Bill 1001, the state budget, included a provision to strip funding from Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, a world-renowned gender and sex research institute, on the baseless grounds that Kinsey aided pedophiles. Similar allegations were levied against Magnus Hirschfeld, whose Institute for Sexual Science was infamously destroyed by the Nazis on their rise to power. No legal challenge to the defunding of Kinsey has been made.
House Bill 1041 from last year, the ban on trans girls in K-12 school sports, remains on the books. There had been a legal challenge to the law, but the student who brought the lawsuit transferred to a new school and the lawsuit was dismissed. No new challenge has been brought against the law, which is obviously illegal, yet it remains on the books.
House Bill 1447 was changed near the end of the session to include language that would remove protections from schools and libraries from complaints they provide “harmful materials” to children. Known as the book banning law, it is already being weaponized by right-wing forces, most notably in Hamilton County, to purge libraries of books depicting LGBTQ people.
House Bill 1608 would force teachers to out students to their parents if they ask to be called by a different name or pronouns. In a clear example of the farce that is the slogan of “parents’ rights” from the far right, the law would allow schools to deadname and misgender students even if the parents request the school use them. A lawsuit has been filed, but it relies on weak First Amendment arguments for teachers, who don’t actually have First Amendment rights in the classroom as they are state actors and not private citizens there.
Finally, Senate Bill 480 sought to ban gender affirming care for all trans youth. That law, as with many similar bans around the country, has been blocked by the courts after a lawsuit was filed, but as with all victories within the capitalist system, this is only a temporary concession.
How do we fight back?
If political power remains in the hands of the capitalist class, even these small gains can be rolled back. The capitalist class remained silent in the face of this slate of hate in such a stark contrast to their vocal opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, which would have legalized anti-LGBTQ bigotry by corporations, that even more mainstream media like the IndyStar remarked on their silence. This silence means the capitalist class is divided, which is a sign of their weakness.
The Democratic Party uses progressive language to get votes, but they refuse to use political power in the interests of working and oppressed people. Instead, they pass reforms—when under massive pressure from the organized working class—and act as a spoiler to prevent socialist success at the ballot box. Minnesota’s state legislative reforms have been portrayed recently as a counterexample of this, but it’s important to remember that the Minnesota Democrats are the “Democratic–Farmer-Labor Party,” formed by a merger of the Democrats with the genuinely grassroots Farmer-Labor Party in the 1940s. Democrats nationally, even in so-called “blue states,” are not a grassroots left movement. Barack Obama, who campaigned as an opponents of gay marriage, did nothing to codify Roe and leaves as his crowning achievement “Obamacare,” which forces people to buy private insurance instead of socializing healthcare. And Minnesota is not under worker power: Democratic Gov. Tim Walz vetoed a law that would have set a minimum wage and mandated protections for Uber and Lyft gig drivers after those companies threatened to halt operations in response.
We can’t depend on capitalist politicians of whatever ruling-class party to fight back against these attacks. After all, it was their inaction that got us to this point. We can only end attacks on LGBTQ people–and all of us–permanently if we unite all working and oppressed people—gay and straight, cis and trans, white and Black, Christian and atheist—under the banner of socialism and liberation. Patriarchy is a form of oppression thousands of years old, and it will not disappear on the first day of the Revolution, but the committed work of the most progressive elements of the working class organized toward an achievable program under worker power can change the way human beings interact with one another and the world. That is why the PSL consistently organizes to not only defend but to advance the interests of the people and the planet.