Monday, March 30, 2015


I didn’t expect to be away from my nigh-daily blogging as long as I was. In truth, I didn’t expect a lot of what has happened to me and a lot of what I’ve been going through over the past fourteen months or so. It has been a challenging period of my life and I’m working my way back to a more productive me.

My first notion for today’s bloggy thing was to tell you what was up with me and let you know what you can expect from this blog in the future. I wrote that bloggy thing twice before I consigned it to the oblivion it deserved.

If there’s something in my life I think would make for entertaining or informative reading, I’ll write about it. We all face challenges as we live our lives and there’s nothing so unusual about my struggles that demand I write about them here.

As for what’s coming up in future bloggy things, you’ll find that out when I post them. I’m excited about my plans and some already-in-the-works pieces, but I’d much rather write those bloggy things than write about them.  Besides...we have more important stuff to discuss today.

I was invited to be a guest at a summer convention that should be terrific fun on all counts. The event has offered to pay all of my usual expenses. It’s in a state where I haven’t appeared since the launch of Satan’s Six in 1993. Among the attendees will be friends I haven’t see in decades, a number of comics industry pals and even some outside-of-comics folks with whom I could conceivably have a professional relationship in the future.  I was looking forward to being at this convention.

The problem with my attending this convention’s being held in Indiana. The state whose Republican governor and overwhelmingly Republican state representatives have just passed a deceptive law which allows discrimination in the name of religion. They claim the law protects “religious liberty,” but its real purpose is to allow “Christians” to be bigots without any genuine fear of consequence. It’s a mean-spirited law that seeks to inflict second-class status on LGBT citizens in Indiana. It’s clearly not something Jesus would do, but these phony “Christians” left their alleged savior behind  a long time ago.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence and its vile ilk are among the leading reasons why we can’t have nice things in this country. His claims this law isn’t about discrimination is a bold-faced lie. Especially given that bigotry and discrimination are practically cornerstones of the Republican Party platform.

When Pence signed this noxious bill into law, the responses to such blatant bigotry were immediate. Citizens protested in Indiana and elsewhere. Many state businesses were quick to proclaim they would not discriminate against LGBT and other citizens, and condemned the law that would let any business discriminate in this manner. Some out-of-state companies and organizations pulled planned events and  other business from Indiana. Major sports entities have said this law is not in keeping with their own policies supporting inclusion. NBA legend Charles Barkley, who once fought Godzilla, is on record saying the NCAA Final Four tournament should be moved from Indiana. Pence and the law’s supporters have no intention of repealing the law, though Pence has made the clearly perfidious claim that he and the representatives will “clarify” it.

Every day, Republicans say and do terrible things. One can attempt to ignore them, but their actions and words do hurt people. Decent people. Hard-working people. Law-abiding people. And those decent, hard-working, law-abiding people include dear friends and readers and collaborators of mine.

In a career that has lasted more than four decades, I have tried to bring greater diversity and tolerance into my work and my industry. The more I learned about Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the more I realized I had to take a public stand against it. Even if that stand meant making one of the most painful decisions I have ever made.

On Friday, I posted this note on my Facebook page and several other online venues:

Because the governor of Indiana and its state legislature have come down on the side of bigotry and discrimination, I cancelled what would have been my first convention appearance in that state in two decades. Sometimes a writer has to walk the walk.

The response to my post was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. While these expressions of good will didn’t ease my pain, they were greatly were the conversations that followed on my Facebook page and elsewhere.

One of the very first responses I received was from the convention promoters. Let me say straight up that these gentlemen have always acted in the best good faith. I felt as awful about disappointing them as I did about not going to their event. They have asked me to reconsider my decision and this is something you and I need to talk about. I am actively soliciting your advice, but not until you’ve read the rest of today’s bloggy thing.

The convention added this to its website even before it learned of my cancellation:

As proud citizens of this city and state, we’re saddened that this bill has cast such a negative light on Hoosiers.  The perception created by this bill does not represent who we are or what we stand for. Our fans and attendees are as diverse as they come, and we want them to feel comfortable in our city.  We are Hoosiers, some of us born and raised, and we know that our friends, family, and our neighbors are some of the warmest and most welcoming individuals in the country, even if the new legislation threatens to paint us otherwise.

As a show born and bred here in Indiana, we’re going to continue to fight against these negative perceptions and continue to offer a warm and inclusive environment for all of our fans, guests, and attendees.  We do not wish to leave, we wish to affect change.  In response to the RFRA, we have updated our exhibitor terms and agreements to make it clear that we will not do business with, accept money from, or receive sponsorship from any business entity that chooses to discriminate against people based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, religion, or socio-economic background. We will not tolerate discrimination in any form and will continue to promote a welcoming atmosphere within our walls and within our city.

That’s a powerful and powerfully stated response to the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” It’s the kind of message which makes me think I should reconsider my decision, though that’s something I’m not going to do until I hear back from my bloggy thing readers and my other friends online.

On my Facebook page, Holly Simpson posted that there are 31 states with “heightened religious freedom protections.” My gut feeling is that Indiana is as good a place as any to draw the line and start pushing back against this rampant bigotry. However, going forward, laws like Indiana’s RFRA will be a factor whenever I consider any future convention or personal appearances.

Roger Price, who put on so many wonderful Mid-Ohio-Con events, had this to say:

While I fully respect your decision, let me play devil's advocate for a moment. In addition to taking an admirable stand, doesn't this also punish the show's promoter and fans just for having a dumb-ass governor? Something neither the organizer or audience has any real control over.

Darryn Roberts suggested this:

I've always found the best way to protest is to turn up and let the bastards know. What you SHOULD do is wear a rainbow unitard and have a $1.00 kissing booth at your stall, no chicks allowed.

Sorry, Darryn. No matter what I decide, I will not expose innocent people to the sight of me in a unitard and, even if I did turn my table into a kissing booth, it would be terribly wrong of me to discriminate against the ladies.

Raymond Rose posted:

While I agree with your decision, the one question I feel needs to be asked is "this decision hurts the governor and state legislature how?" Just playing Devil's Advocate, since I do agree with your boycott.

Kurt Busiek posted:

The answer is that the aggregate of people and businesses canceling plans to take part in things Indianan is going to cost the state millions in taxes and development, to the point that Pence is already asking for legislation to "clarify" the law. Without this kind of reaction, that wouldn't happen.
Finally, Nat Gertler posted:

The goal isn’t to hurt the governor and legislature, I assume, but to incentivize the repeal of the law and to disincentivize other jurisdictions from following suit.

Nat is a much nicer person than I am because I really would like to find ways to legally hurt Pence and his cadre of creeps. Those who foster bigotry and discrimination deserve to be hurt. Towards that end, here’s a link to a list of the Indiana legislators who voted in favor of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and where they work. Apparently, discriminating against their fellow citizens is just a part-time job.

WARNING! I have not verified the information contained in the above list. However, if you’re a resident of Indiana who can verify this information, it might be fun to let these businesses know you won’t be spending money with them because of these legislators. Let them know bigotry is bad for business.

How can I personally hurt Pence and his goons? Well, I kind of sort of have an idea about that, but it’s an idea that would require the cooperation of Indiana activists. It would also require the green light from the convention promoters.

Let’s say I do attend this convention and, instead of selling old comics and stuff at my booth, I turn it into an information center for some legitimate organization working to overturn this dastardly law. Although I normally do not charge for my signature on comics and other items I have written, I would ask my fans and readers to make donations to the organization to help fund a campaign against RFRA and those who passed it.

Could such a small effort help increase awareness of the harm RFRA can and will do to Indiana citizens and the state itself? Could it raise a fun bucks for the cause?

Honestly, I have no idea. The last time I was involved in any kind of fundraiser at a convention, I raised more money than any other professional except for Jeff Smith. Of course, on that occasion, I was sitting in a flush tank and, for a nominal fee, folks could buy baseball throws, try to douse me with freezing cold water and watch me turn Doctor Manhattan blue. That would not be happening at this convention. I guarantee it.

Before I make any further decisions on this convention appearance, I need the advice of my bloggy thing readers and my online friends. I am prepared to stand by my earlier decision and not attend this  convention. I want to make a statement, however small, against this terrible bill and the bigots who made it law.

Could I make a more public statement if I attend the convention, spending as little as humanly possible while speaking out against RFRA on Pence’s home court?

I want your thoughts on these tough choices before me. I want your help in finding the right organization to work with on this effort. I am out of my league here.

You can post your comments on this bloggy thing or on my Facebook page. You can e-mail me with your thoughts. I’ll weigh everything you have to say and make my decision as quickly as I possibly can. The law is scheduled to take effect in July. The war against it has already begun.

I picked a great time to return to blogging, didn’t I?
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella


  1. My take is this, for whatever it's worth:
    Independent business owners who own and run a café, or a bar, say, have always had a right to refuse service to anyone, whether for a good reason or not. Hell, I've seen that sign hung up in a lot of bars.
    There are simply some establishments that a person might not feel welcome in, for a variety of reasons. And while I'm neither a racist or a homophobe, I wouldn't go where I wasn't welcome.
    That said, I'm deeply offended and pissed off when a governor and legislature of a state pass a law, a bad law, that enshrines bigotry and discrimination as public policy. We are right to be angry about that, and we SHOULD expect and demand more from our elected and paid public representatives than we do from individuals who may personally own a business that only caters to the customers they deem acceptable.
    People like that will always be with us. But when elected officials promote and sanction that kind of thinking, I got a problem.
    They ain't on MY side.
    I don't know if your stand on this move is right or wrong, or if it would have an effect, but big things have small beginnings.
    For the record, I served in the U.S. Army overseas, and I served with many great people who happened to be homosexuals, men and women, they were good soldiers and good people. They were my friends, my brothers and my sisters.
    You don't wanna know what my opinion is of the Republicans who support this. It's gutter politics.
    I'm angry.

  2. Hey, Tony,

    Here's my two cents where I realize I have no business butting in. Go to the convention and publicize your point of view. By not going, you make the point to essentially no one who will notice it. But if you go, you become a mouthpiece for your point of view. If you stay home, you merely obscure it.

    Charge for your signatures but make it an option, making it clear that monies gained will go to working against this silly law. By staying away, you don't hurt the Powers That Be, that just fits in with their fallout plans. If you go, you're a fly in the ointment.

    Be the fly. Make yourself known. Make your views known. Why? Because it causes them to spread, and that's the thing they don't want. Stay home and you make the wrong guys happy. Go, and you spread the good word.

    So, in my opinion, go, fly, be free, and make a difference.

    Take care,

    Rick Ollerman

  3. As long as the "ambulatory phlegm" continue to use the populace--and especially "Christian" businesses--as human shields, you will not have much effect on them. If you go, they get to claim that there is no fall out from this legislature: "See? All these businesses (concerns, concerts, events, etc) have CHOICES. This bill allows freedom of choice." If you don't go, the people who hurt first are precisely the ones you LEAST want to hurt. This is the magic of evil. You cannot win for losing. I do not deign to offer anything like a suggestion for you. There is no right or wrong except that which has already passed the legislature and been signed into law. Despicable.

  4. When Harlan Ellison did a show in -- I think it was Arizona-- that was refusing to ratify the ERA or something that he was advocating for very strongly, he traveled in a motor home and brought in all his own food and etc., on the theory that he would consume no goods sold in a state that refused to acknowledge equal rights. The reason I know this is because it got a fair amount of publicity.

    The answer to your question is, I think, what's the best way to shine a harsh light on the Governor's actions? Bad publicity for the consequences of those actions. So with that in mind I think it'd be worth going, since the convention organizers are clearly on the same page with you, in order to shine a light on the fact that this is the GOVERNOR's asshattery and not INDIANA's. Your idea of sharing your table with an outfit that is actively working to get this law overturned is a good one, but I'd see if you could take it a little further and get the con organizers on board with adding a benefit a booth or table all on its own; the way the Hero Initiative or the CBLDF has a separate booth at which a VARIETY of creastors do fundraising, signings and sketches and donating loot and so on.

    Walking the walk doesn't always have to be NOT doing something. The thing that is hurting Pence and the other lobbyists is making them own what they did and exposing the fact that this law is all about is an angry homophobic minority having a tantrum. Let the Indiana comics fans show that they're LGBT allies themselves, isolate the Governor further and make him know HIS OWN constituents are against him on this. Turn the whole 'individual states have the right to do their own thing, it's right for Indiana' argument against them. Pence is claiming that Hoosiers are kind and caring and this is a huge mischaracterization. He's probably right and you could show him that includes the fact that a lot of them are against him and his creepy lobbyist pals.

    Since you're soliciting opinions, that's mine.

  5. Food for thought about all this from Hoosier Melissa McEwan:

  6. Not going will not get noticed. There will be no articles on people who did not show up unless they are extremely high profile. And honestly, by then there will be other outrages. I remember boycotts against Colorado ("The hate state"), Utah, some point you forget. These things tend to have short shelf lives of attention.


    Go and do something that keeps it in the news. Now THAT might get an article or two. Maybe by then there will be businesses that cater explicitly to people discriminated against by competitors. Take a crowd to those places. Take pictures of the line stretching outside.

    Which one sounds like it will get noticed, make a difference?

    Go and see your friends, have fun and raise awareness. The people you oppose would rather you stay home.

  7. Seems to me, if you go to Indiana and spend one penny, you're supporting Pence and his Ilk. Even if you don't fill your gas tank or eat a meal or sleep in a hotel in Indiana, if one person comes to the convention because they want to meet you, you're supporting Pence.

    I have a lot of friends in the music business. Most of them are small-timers. They play a show that pays enough to grab a shower in a motel and fill the van with gas, then on to the next show. They're canceling gigs in Indiana.

    These are Republicans. They have no shame, they have no morals. The only way to fight them is by hitting them in the pocketbook. I say, don't go to the show.

    One of the more specious arguments I'm seeing is that the Indiana law is no different from the federal law and the laws in multiple states, including the one Obama voted for in Illinois. This is a blatant lie. The majority of these laws, including the Federal and Illinois versions, are very narrowly worded. They provide wiggle room for things like allowing a muslim in a non food-service job to have a short beard, or a catholic to be allowed to go to mass on ash Wednesday. They do NOT allow a rastafarian to smoke pot, or an amish person to sell milk that hadn't been refrigerated.

    The Indiana law is so broadly worded that pretty much anything goes. Refusing to do business with a gay person would be not just allowed, but openly encouraged. This is the purpose of the law, and anyone saying otherwise is a liar, plain and simple. I understand that there's some sort of Commandment against giving false witness, but I'm no expert...

    Dr. Empirical

  8. I live in Indianapolis and protested on the steps of the State House on Saturday because this law is bad. Seems like an overly simple statement, but that's what it is, it's just bad. It's bad for people like you having to make decisions like this, it's bad for those of us in the state who are caring and thoughtful people who think ignorance, hate and intolerance do not define us as Hooisers (and NOT Indiananans or whatever I've seen floating around online...and, no, I have no idea where we got that name), it's bad for businesses all over our state, it's bad for our image worldwide, and it is bad because those fighting so hard to keep the law are misunderstanding what I have always learned about Jesus: he accepted all.

    Do what you feel is best, Tony. I believe that #boycottindiana has its place because money seems to speak louder than people. Those who crafted this law are scrambling trying to "clarify" what it really means while the damage has been done. This law served one true purpose and that was to serve the Conservatives and the Right-wing Christians who were mad that the proposed Constitutional amendment outlawing Gay marriage was defeated last year. It is legalized hate and until it is repealed.....just go with your gut.

  9. Just to debunk Roger Price point: Yes, they are going to bear the cost of having a dumb-ass governor. There is a cost of letting one get elected, and it is the people who work in that state who will have to pay it. You can't protect them and it is foolish to try.

  10. My short, sweet, two cents worth Tony (since my eloquent response got deleted by BlogSpot somehow) is this...

    Don't go.

    Any action you take in Indiana will in some way, great or small, contribute financially to their well-being, and the only sanctions politicians hear these days are ones expressed with dollar signs and numerals.

    Sadly, this will negatively impact the convention's hosts. But there can be no casualty-less conflict. And, in my opinion, a certain degree of blame has to fall on the voters of the state who, though action or inaction, have allowed their representative voice to be this man's.

    They need to correct the situation they've allowed themselves to get into, at the polls and the capital building, before we can, in good conscience, allow ourselves to support them again.

    "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

    Conversely, we can not through our actions, even actions of opposition, inadvertently strengthen evil in its many forms.

  11. I really mulled this over, because the whole boycott thing smacks of right wing religious groups protesting "immoral" TV shows, but I honestly think that the only way to protest the laws created by these people is economic warfare. The law was crafted and promoted by white, rich, homophobic businessmen/politicians. They don't understand tolerance, or diversity, or anything beyond their privileged lifestyles; what they DO understand is profit and loss, especially on a corporate scale. When big companies, especially media savvy companies that are known to embrace diversity (like Apple and Angie's List) pull out of conferences and halt expansion plans in that state, that is the ONLY thing that a business owning Republican is going to take heed of. Seeing a bunch of "queers" protesting at the Capitol only reinforces that Republican's belief that the barbarians are at the gate, and gives him the feeling of fighting in a noble battle. Finding out that profits are down in the hotel chain he is heavily invested in because conventions are staying away from Indiana in droves might actually make an impression on a lawmaker who supported this legislation, as would complaints from his constituents that may have supported the law until they realized that, hey, gay people and their supporters actually spend a lot of money, and it's now money that I'm not getting because I sided with a homophobic legislature.

    I can't believe that forty years after the civil rights movements these battles still have to be fought; that there are still segments of society that have to fight to be awarded the rights are supposed to be conferred on them by virtue of the fact that they simply exist. For every person who thinks they should be allowed to discriminate against any person simply because of their race, religion, origin, or orientation, why don't you take the Bill of Rights out of its hermetically sealed case and just wipe your ass with it?

  12. David Letterman had something to say about the situation, even though he did it in a lighthearted manner. His Top Ten List was what guy Gov. Pence looked like and they were not flattering. Basically, he said that this was not the Indiana he remembers or where he he grew up.