LOOGOOTEE — Loogootee will celebrate Marriage Equality Day Wednesday after Mayor Noel Harty drafted a proclamation last week.
Tim and Tracy Brown-Salsman, whose marriage was the first same-gender marriage performed in Martin County by Judge Lynn Ellis on June 26, 2014, will soon celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.
After Tim and Tracy were married, they approached Mayor Noel Harty to suggest that June 26 be proclaimed Marriage Equality Day in Loogootee and all of Martin County in recognition of the historic event of the first legal, same-gender marriage in the county. The couple assumed Harty’s lack of response was due to the standard, conservative objections to gay rights, and out of respect for the mayor and the general population’s right to their own opinions, they hoped and waited for an affirmative response with plans to celebrate their anniversary as Marriage Equality Day with or without the support of the mayor and the community.
When asked about the couple’s proposal, Harty shared that the delay was a result of his dilemma of figuring out how to best love, respect and support his community as a whole. After much thoughtful consideration and with great hope that all will be as gracious and respectful as our local LGBTQ+ communities have been, Harty decided to make a proclamation declaring June 26 Marriage Equality Day.
“On the 26th of June our community will recognize the historic event that transpired in our county and in our city when two of our same gendered residents were united in marriage. As with all who have had the opportunity to be joined in marriage, this day will forever be in their hearts. Let us all remember that God is love, and it is that love that should be shared with all,” said Harty in the proclamation he drafted.
Harty hopes that despite potentially differing views, the community will celebrate this as a victory for a minority, some of whom are youth, that will award them the opportunity, previously denied, to develop confidence and self worth that could positively change the course of lives.
Tracy Brown-Salsman expressed a hope following the proclamation.
“I want to see rainbow flags other than our own in town. If you celebrate and support equal civil rights for all people, make Tracy’s fifth anniversary wish come true and display a rainbow for the first annual Martin County Marriage Equality Day on June 26, 2019,” he said.
Harty believes that a move like this will be a positive reflection on the community.
“I believe no one should be excluded. I love everyone and want Loogootee and surrounding Martin County to be known as an inclusive and welcoming community. It’s possible to be conservative in one’s personal values while also being generous in love and hospitality. It’s true that much of our community is still learning how to balance the two, but I have faith we can accomplish it through respectful communication about our differences and related needs, celebrating each other’s victories, and advocating for each other’s unrealized civil rights. We’ll accomplish more as a community if we overcome our divisions to work and live in supportive unity,” Harty said.
The Brown-Salsmans described their long fought battle with then-governor Mike Pence to win the right to have their surname changed to match their relationship status. Evidently, their years of civil rights activism created a fearlessness in them that allowed them to be open about their experiences when others were not.
Tim was born in Martin County, but his parents moved away soon after his birth, so he actually grew up in Brownsburg and returned later to live what he describes as a “good life” with his husband Tracy who grew up in Cloverdale. The couple’s friends in Bloomington where skeptical when the couple shared their plans to move back to the area.
“Their eyes got as big as silver dollars. They were scared to death of Martin County thinking it was, somewhat, like the Wild West,” said Tim.
“The boys,” as they report being dubbed by their friends in Loogootee, are gracious and eager hosts who proudly present publications, including the June 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, that features a photo of the front porch of their historic store-front home on Loogootee’s town square that formerly housed Kennedy’s Groceries and Meats, which drew the attention of the Kennedy campaign as it traveled through town causing them to choose to make a campaign stop in front of the store bearing the future president’s name. Despite reporting being fairly treated by area employers, and overall, being pleased with their quality of life in Loogootee, the loneliness was palpable.
“We sit on our porch night after night hoping someone from the LGBTQ+ community might approach us and just sit down to talk and share common experiences. Nobody ever bothers us. Despite having lived smack-dab in the center of Loogootee for over 20 years, the Brown-Salsmans continue to sometimes feel out of place like aliens,” he said.
The Brown-Salsmans keep informative brochures on hand to distribute advertising Indiana Youth Group, an organization that’s been helping LGBTQ+ youth since 1987. They serve youth ages 12-20 who self-identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as their allies. All of their programs and services are offered free of charge and youth remain under adult supervision at all times.
History of Pride Month
The month of June was chosen for LGBTQ+ pride month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that occurred toward the end of June of 1969. Two presidents have officially declared June as pride month and the first gay pride march occurred June 28, 1970.
The 10 year anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1979 marked the first national march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights.
The Stonewall Riots were a series of spontaneous riots over a six-day period that sparked when police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village, because, at the time, laws prohibiting “sodomy” were still on the books, as well as ones that permitted the arrest of a male in drag or a female wearing fewer than three pieces of “feminine clothing.”
Frustrations within the gay community over such laws and the brutality of their enforcement came to a head at the raid inciting the uprising, which ultimately brought attention to and solidarity within the cause of gay rights. “Gay Pride” was chosen over the phrase “Gay Power” at the suggestion of L. Craig Schoonmaker as a slogan to organize around.
Artist Gilbert Baker created the first rainbow flag. His original version had eight stripes as opposed to today’s six-stripe flag, and each stripe represents a different aspect of the gay experience. Over the years, Pride has evolved to represent and include any and all human differences that lead to an individual or minority group being cast off by the majority.
Although Pride’s roots and identification remain largely with the LGBTQ+ community, its goal is to provide safe, inclusive refuges for anyone in need of such a place, and as as result, extra letters, and eventually, and all inclusive plus sign were added to the name of the community who rallied around it.
Local members of the LGBTQ+ community who wish to celebrate Pride are forced to travel away from home on weekends during the month of June to attend parades and festivals in Evansville, Spencer, Indianapolis, Greencastle, Vincennes and beyond to celebrate the strides society has made in terms of civil rights for people with minority sexual and gender identity. As they return to their home communities, they pass billboards posted along Highway 50 by BeyondIDo.org that beseech motorists to empathize with couples who have been awarded the right to marry by the state but still are refused the privileges of marriage by insurance companies.
This refusal of services isn’t isolated to just insurance companies though. In fact, in February 2019, Nancy Fivecoate, owner of Carter Tax Service in Russiaville, Indiana, refused to file a joint tax return for a customer of four years because she had become legally married to a same-gendered partner and wished to file jointly for the first time. Samantha and Bailey Brazzel were turned away due to Fivecoate’s religious beliefs, which are protected under Pence’s RFRA that allows her to refuse service if she feels her exercise of religion is likely to be substantially burdened, while the married couple’s rights are left exposed by the intentional omission of sexual orientation from the state’s civil rights law.
In effect, a business displaying a rainbow flag is a helpful indicator for members of the LGBT community to navigate unfamiliar Indiana communities; however, it should be noted that the existence of a need for such an indicator seems to be a step backward into the nation’s checkered past preceding the Civil Rights movement.
For more information and to grow in understanding of the manner in which the state’s current laws effect the LGBTQ+ community, visit to BeyondIDo.org. To learn more, go to www.indianayouthgroup.org or call 317-541-8726. The organization’s efforts throughout the state can be supported by participating in the Pride Your Ride initiative at the BMV with personalized license plates.