From: Kate Hamilton

New York

I prepared for this year’s Memorial Day SALUTE! concert with great duty and pride for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, the soldiers the concert commemorates and my home state. When I learned that Gov. Mike Pence would be participating in the event it was these same values — responsibility and respect for the state — that led me to question my involvement. The CIP and its conductor, David Bowden, have been crucial to my artistic development. Yet, as an Indiana native who is bisexual, pro-choice and the ancestor of immigrants, my participation in an event that places Pence on a pedestal would be dishonest.

I am bisexual because I love a woman and have loved men before. I am pro-choice because I believe that a woman should have sovereignty over her body. I know first-hand the isolation that comes from having an abortion, despite the fact that one out of three women in the U.S. has one. I can share this with you because we live in this country at this current time. Until recently I might have been scared to go out in public with the person that I love. I might have had to sneak through the back room of a house to have an unsafe abortion. I and individuals like me are only afforded the opportunity to speak with candor because others took politics personally and didn’t acquiesce in the face of politicians who tried to marginalize them.

Even now these rights are tenuous. Today, more than half of LGBTQ-identified individuals live in states that allow employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Many state governments are making access to safe abortions more difficult, and in the thick of the largest refugee crisis since WWII many state governments refuse to welcome immigrants fleeing warfare. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, House Enrolled Act 1337 and the blocking of aid to Syrian refugees are at the forefront of Pence’s legacy as governor and have dominated the conversation about Indiana in national news.

It is as if Indiana has found herself in a relationship with a man who brings out her fear, a man who makes her feel bad about herself when she goes out in public, a man who has made several of her children a target of discrimination. My refusal to participate in this event is my assertion that I care deeply about Indiana, that I do not condone her relationship with this man, that I think she can do better.

I challenge citizens to overcome the polite conversation they reserve for affairs of state and take politics more personally, to see that their neutrality, their conversation and their vote have implications on fellow citizens’ abilities to be themselves — a right that some people living among them have only recently gained the liberty to do without fear. This liberty is fragile, vital and must be cherished.

Please find the full version of this letter via social media or my website and follow its call to action.