INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Former Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard was honored, along with his wife Winnie, by the Indy Rainbow Chamber for his work for LGBT rights.
The Chamber said his work was most significant after Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in March 2015.
“Mayor Ballard was very vocal and very fast and he was very loud,” said JJ Gufreda, president of the Indy Rainbow Chamber.
Following the state’s passage of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, Ballard stood outside the City-County Building with former mayors and business leaders and said, “Let me be clear, Indy welcomes all. This isn’t about politics. It’s not about PR. This is about what’s right.”
Gufreda says because the mayor acted so quickly, the entire conversation changed.
“This was leadership for Indianapolis and it doesn’t matter what party you are,” said Gufreda.
“This legislation threatened to damage the city and he was going to make sure that didn’t happen,” said Chris Douglas, an LGBT advocate, and former president of the Chamber.
Douglas said among the protests, the city needed leadership. He also said the LGBT community needed an ally, and that’s what Mayor Ballard gave.
“It helps that everybody knows that he’s a no nonsense guy, a former Marine and really dedicated to the well-being of the city. And he just wasn’t going to have any of it,” said Douglas.
Because of the law, dire predictions were made for the city’s business future. Days later, the legislature passed a fix. Those predictions have never come true, but Ballard says it took a lot of work to keep the state from the brink of disaster.
“It was literally hundreds of phone calls, maybe thousands of phone calls, a lot of people doing a lot of extra work,” said Ballard. “All that said, we have lost some conventions, students have not come to some of the universities they were coming to. All those things are happening. All that is still in play. We’re still working to have to overcome that. All that said, I think we saved a lot of it, and Indiana is a good place to do business. It is a good place to raise a family, but we just need to make sure that everybody around the country and around the world knows that.”
“Any time you have an individual like Mayor Ballard who comes out in support of a minority community, its a sign of progress,” said Jason Hinson-Nolen, the president of Indy Pride.
Instead of the dire predictions, businesses came together to welcome all.
And just two months after RFRA was signed into law, the city hosted its biggest Pride Week ever. 100,000 people on the American Legion Mall, and Ballard served as grand marshal of the pride parade. And as Pride Week kicks off again this weekend, Indy Pride says they’re planning for even more people.
“We’ve seen growth every single year for the past six years so we imagine we’ll see 10 to 15 percent more than that,” said Hinson-Nolen.