My Thoughts on SJR-7

The SJR-7 legislation to amend the Indiana constitution is going to be heard in committee tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. The committee will meet in the Senate Chambers – 3rd floor of the Indiana Statehouse (200 W. Washington Street in Indianapolis).

Everyone is invited to attend – a good crowd against the legislation will make an impact, so if you can come, please do. There will be an hour of testimony against the legislation. I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to say anything, because they probably have some people lined up to speak already, but if I got a chance, here’s a rough cut of what I might say:

The average Hoosier, if they read this legislation on a ballot, is not going to understand it. They’re not going to realize how flawed the legislation is; that it doesn’t just affect gay and lesbian Hoosiers, but it also affects them. They’re not going to realize that it can invalidate the domestic violence laws that protect them (as it has in Ohio) or that it can repeal their health care benefits if they work for the government, or that it can affect their financial arrangements and their relationships with people they love.

And unfortunately, we are small minority of people. We don’t have the numbers to knock on every door and explain to every Hoosier how damaging this legislation can be not just to us, but to them.

So Hoosiers may see this on a ballot and vote for it out of ignorance.

But you’re not. You legislators know what this amendment really means. You know that it’s considered flawed, because we’ve explained it you you, and we’ve had legal scholars analyze it and tell you. We shown you what’s going on in Ohio, and we’ve testified about how it tears apart gay and lesbian families.

You can’t claim ignorance on this.

So if you vote in favor of this legislation, you’re acting with malicious intent. And we are here to be witnesses to that.
If you wrote this legislation, if you vote for it, if you support and defend it… If you engrave this flawed piece of intolerance into the Indiana Constitution, we’re here to let you know that you’re names will be engraved with it. We’ll etch your names in stone, right next to it, so your legacy will be clear.

So that five years or so from now, when it people see the devastation this causes gay families, and when the average Hoosier realizes how it affects them, too… and when people start to say, “who wrote this crappy amendment?” they’ll have a handy, permanent reference point.

And 50 years from now, when you grandchildren come back to extract this painful piece of bigotry and intolerance out of their constitution like a bad tooth (and I have faith they will, because I believe in the goodness of mankind) they will do so with a sense of shame – because they will see your names – their names – attached to this, and they will know that their parents or grandparents gave them this legacy.

Think about this. 50 or 100 years from now, no one will remember who you are, or what you voted on. They won’t know if you’re good or bad. But they’ll know you voted on for intolerance, because we’ll be standing as silent witnesses to it, and we’ll make sure they remember you for this.

Continue ReadingMy Thoughts on SJR-7

Rally at the Indiana Statehouse to Oppose SJR-7

A while back, I wrote about SJR-7, the bill to amend the Indiana constitution to eliminate equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, and I urged people to contact the legislators responsible for this atrocious piece of legislation.

Well, there’s more you can do.

Indiana Equality is organizing a rally at the State House to oppose this amendment, and to support two other pieces of legislation that help protect lgbt people – a hate crimes bill that covers sexual orientation and gender identity, and an anti-discrimination bill, both of which are being introduced this legislative session.
The rally — called the “Read the Fine Print” — will feature Candace Gingrich, sister of Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.

WHAT: “Read the Fine Print!” Rally at the Statehouse
WHEN: Monday, February 19, 2007 from 1:00 pm — 2:30 pm
(Presidents Day)
WHERE: Indiana Statehouse, North Atrium, 200 W. Washington
(Enter off Ohio Street)

Enter the Statehouse using the Ohio Street entrance. Please allow extra time, as you may have to go through security. Also be aware that street parking may be hard to find. The Circle Center Mall garage is only a few blocks away and relatively inexpensive.
Note that this is on President’s Day – a day when many people already have off work — so you can attend this rally. I’ll be there. You will have the opportunity to meet with your legislators at some time during or after the rally to speak your mind if you like (see information on training below.)
You can RSVP that you will be attending at this Indiana Equality link.

ALSO…

You can get training to lobby your legislator prior to the rally, in the morning on the same day. Indiana Equality, Human Rights Campaign, and Stop The Amendment will be providing a two-hour crash course in techniques for constituents to successfully communicate with and educate their State legislators.

WHAT: Lobbying Your Legislator 101
WHEN: Monday, February 19th, 2007 from 9:30am – 11:30am
(President’s Day)
WHERE: Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle
COST: $5 (includes training, materials, and continental
breakfast)

Reserve your spot in lobbying training.
Topics of this session will include:
Do’s and Don’ts when talking to legislators
The “Marriage” Amendment

  • Process of amending Indiana?s Constitution
  • Background on the Amendment
  • Facts, talking points, and likely objections

Hate Crimes Legislation

  • How a bill becomes law
  • Background on Hate Crimes legislation
  • Facts, talking points, and likely objections

Street parking may be hard to find. The Circle Center Mall garage is only a few blocks away and relatively inexpensive.

Continue ReadingRally at the Indiana Statehouse to Oppose SJR-7

Anti-Marriage Equality Amendment Introduced to Indiana Legislature

As Bilerico is reporting – the massively flawed legislation to put an anti-marriage equality amendment (banning civil marriage for same-sex partners) on the ballot for voting had been re-introduced to the legislature.

Here’s the proposed bill:

DIGEST OF INTRODUCED BILL
Definition of marriage. Provides that marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman. Provides that Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

That second line — that’s the massively flawed part. The idea is not only to prevent us from getting married, but also to prevent civil unions. But the wording of this bill is so bad that it has ramifications FAR BEYOND same-sex couples, and far beyond civil unions. This is what happened in Ohio – domestic violence laws are being invalidated for heterosexual couples who are unmarried – and women are being victimized as a result, because they’re abused by their live-in boyfriends, but the police can’t prosecute because they aren’t “married.”

Read that second paragraph again, and think about it for a minute.

Now think about that in context of Stephanie and I, trying to build a life together – to protect our joint property and provide for one another as we get older. That can invalidate wills, powers of attorney, living wills, assets and trusts.

We have to spend thousands of dollars that heterosexual people don’t to protect our lives – you get it just by getting a $10 marriage license. And that second line of this bill – can throw all of it out the window.

This bill is CRAZY – and it’s going to be voted on in the legislature a second time. It’s called SJR-7 – Senate Resolution 7. You can track what’s happening to it at that link.

The Homophobic Hate-Filled Bigots Responsible

Republican Senator Brandt Hershman (Wheatfield) – the Majority Whip

These people know what that second line means – they know how harmful it can be. They’re aware that we could lose our assets and be out in the cold, and they know about the problems in Ohio – but they’re so filled with hatred they don’t care.

Please contact every single one of these utter jackholes (information at the links) and tell them that they’re not good Christians for supporting this kind of discrimination, (make sure to say SJR-7) and call them on being the evil, hate-filled bigots that they are.

Stephanie and Steph

Do it for us — aren’t we cute? Shouldn’t we get to have a life together? Don’t you love us? Let these guys know that what they’re doing hurts people you care about.

Why this should be decided by courts, not by ballot

Civil rights should not be subject to the tyranny of the majority. That’s the key that sets America apart from other democracies – We have a Bill of Rights that protects the rights of the individual from the whims of the masses.

If we let people vote on civil rights, Rosa Parks would still be sitting at the back of the bus right now. Fortunately, the wiser head of a court system were allowed to interpret the law and decide discrimination was wrong.

But if we let Indiana citizens AMEND THE CONSTITUTION just to arbitrarily discriminate against a group of people, we’ll be betraying every principle the country stands for.

Continue ReadingAnti-Marriage Equality Amendment Introduced to Indiana Legislature

Oh my god, Did Bauer just throw us under the bus?

Thanks to Bil for pointing out this jaw-dropping statement from Indiana Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend:

“I just think that the only way for (Republicans) not to (continue to) demagogue it is to have a redundancy. It’s too bad it has to go in the constitution, but so be it,” Bauer said. “It’s not worth the time, the trouble, to point out that it’s not a problem (in Indiana), so it’s better just to have the vote and see how it goes.”

Under GOP leadership, both chambers of the General Assembly passed a same-sex marriage amendment last year. The measure must be approved by the newly elected Legislature next year or in 2008 before it could go on the statewide ballot for approval from voters.

That’s nice. Tell me again why I live in Indiana?

Continue ReadingOh my god, Did Bauer just throw us under the bus?

Rep. Espich on supporting bigotry: “I sure do!”

Representative Jeff Espich (R 82) was asked, “You don’t support bigotry do you, Sir?” His reply? “I sure do!”

There were around 150 people protesting against House Speaker Brian Bosma’s Beer Bash for Cash last night at the Rathskeller in the Antheaneum, and my partner Stephanie and I were two of them. The problem with Bosma’s fundraiser is, of course, that Massachusetts Avenue was revitalized primarily by gay and lesbian business owners who moved into the area and restored buildings and built prosperous businesses when most of the real estate there was boarded up and the Republican mayor at the time, Stephen Goldsmith, was ignoring the area.

Now Massachusetts Avenue is a flourishing cultural district, and Bosma was attempting to cash in on the success of GLBT people’s hard work by holding a fundraiser designed to raise money to crush the very people who made the area a success. Fortunately, he failed, because our protest was a smashing success.

Bosma’s party expected 500 supporters, but they had no more than 50 people in attendance, and apparently at one point Bosma was pounding the table in frustration over the noise and commotion we created.

We held up signs outside the event; we took photos of people entering and leaving the fundraiser, chanted and talked to people on their way in, gave them leaflets and information on why we were there, and when their fundraiser moved outside to the beer garden, we walked around to the side of the building with a bullhorn and chanted and talked to drown out their speeches. We also aired some of the dirty laundry some attendees brought with them; several politicians who claim to support “the sanctity of marriage” have some less than stellar records when it comes to marital fidelity, and a list of those incidents read into the bull horn stopped some Bosma supporters in shock.

The protest was organized by the Indiana Action Network (a direct action group) and attended by people from StopTheAmendment.org, Greater Indianapolis Fairness Alliance, Indiana Equality, Jesus Metropolitan Community Church, and Rock Indiana as well as many individuals.
The event was not without incident; one male Bosma supporter viciously attacked Outword Bound Bookstore owner Tamara Tracy, attempting to steal and break the camera she was holding after she took his picture. He was stopped and quickly hustled inside where he couldn’t harm anyone else.

“Bosma Faces Protesters over Gay Marriage Ban” — That’s the headline on the Star article about the event. In the Star, Bosma has a very strange quote:

“I’m not overly concerned about any protest,” Bosma said. “We will just have to agree to disagree on this issue.”

I’m not sure what he thinks that means, really. We’re not going to “agree to disagree” when heterosexual people enjoy special rights that are denied to others. We’re not going to “agree to disagree” on the issue of being denied health care benefits and the ability to see our family members in the hospital. We’re not going to “agree to disagree” on being fired from our jobs because some people are bigots. We’re not going to “agree to disagree” when gay and lesbian youth are harrassed in school. We’re not going to “agree to disagree” when we’re told we can’t worship as we please.

There’s no agreement with any of those injustices here.

Continue ReadingRep. Espich on supporting bigotry: “I sure do!”

We Kissed Inside The Statehouse

Photo Set: 2005 Rally Against SJR-7

We had a wonderful, successful rally at the Indiana Statehouse yesterday! Hundreds of people showed up with extraordinary signs to protest the SJR7 legislation. We were getting people’s contact information, and of the people who agreed to sign up, we got 757 contact addresses. That was about 3/4ths of the crowd, so we had about 1,000 people attending.

What I was really impressed with was not just the fact that I saw tons of people I knew (some of whom I’d never imagine going to a political rally) but I saw tons of people I’ve never seen before in my life. That’s really amazing, because when you’ve been out in the gay community as long as I have, you tend to think it’s really small and that everyone knows everyone else. It takes something like this to make me realize that we have a HUGE gay community in Indiana.

There were excellent speakers, and according to some of the people who lobby regularly, we made a great impression on some of the legislators. Nobody expected the size of crowd we had. At the end of the rally we went inside to lobby, and ran into Eric Miller’s Advance America bigots as they were leaving. Most of Miller’s crowd were home-schooled kids and christian school kids who get extra credit for being bussed into Miller’s rally.

So we chanted at them and basically screwed up the end of their rally. Stephanie and I were by the doors, and a group of bigots who were leaving started to bunch up to trap us inside, chanting and trying to intimidate us. So we kissed in front of them and freaked them out. It was GREAT! They RAN outside to get away from us. A reporter from the IU School Paper snapped our photo while we were kissing, and then interviewed us, so we’re likely to end up in the IU paper. It was really exciting.

UPDATE: Stephanie and I were quoted in the IU paper but they didn’t include our picture.

Indiana Daily News

Other’s Pictures from the Rally

Scott Barrett’s Photos
Marti Abernathy’s Photos
Scott Barnes’ Photos
Wilson’s Photos

Media Coverage of the Rally

Check out this picture of an anti-gay bigot attempting to punch one of the people from our rally:

South Bend Tribune
Another Story of threatened violence from the bigots from a person at our rally: “The Advance America people were filing out —a small group of 5 or 6 young men approached me holding our big IE sign and one said, ‘Don’t you wish we had some torches?!’ The others laughed and they continued on down to the sidewalk.”

NUVO Story: “God hates gays”
Indy Star
WISH-TV
WTHR
The IndyChannel (RTV6)
WXIN – Channel 59 (Indianapolis)
WIBC/Network Indiana
Associated Press
Courier-Journal (Louisville)
Indianapolis Star (Dan Carpenter column) “Inside the anti-gay crusade”
Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)
Courier & Press (Evansville)
Northwest Indiana Times
365Gay.Com

Continue ReadingWe Kissed Inside The Statehouse

Statehouse Rally for Equal Marriage Rights – March 8

I will be attending this rally on March 8th, and I’m inviting you all to join me. I will be one of the crowd-control folks in a lovely orange vest. If you want to get together for a sign-making party, please let me know; this event is only a few short days away.

In response to the State Legislature’s current bill (SJR 7) seeking to limit equal marriage rights for same-sex couples by amending the constitution, gay rights advocates and their friends and families are planning a Rally/Silent protest at the east steps of the Indiana Statehouse on March 8 at 11 a.m. to protest this piece of legislation and several others that are currently under consideration. Organizers are expecting over 1,000 supporters to attend the rally.

This rally will also serve as a counter rally to the one taking place on the west side of the statehouse, held by the right-wing organization Advance America, founded by former political candidate and longtime lobbyist Eric Miller.

The Legislation
A number of bills have been introduced into into the Indiana State Legislature this season that will have an effect on the lives of gay and lesbian citizens of Indiana. Here is a synopsis of three of them:

SJR 7 – EQUAL MARRIAGE RIGHTS: This bill seeks to amend the Indiana constitution to limit the possibility of marriage to a definition of one man and one woman, and additionally seeks to prevent any legal arrangements between same-sex couples that are intended to provide the same protections as marriage.

SJR 585 – ADOPTION/FOSTERING: This bill will prohibit gay people from being foster parents and adopting.

SJR 541 – DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS: This bill will limit eligibility under a state university health plan to an employee of the university and to the spouse and dependant children of the employee.

The first legislation, SJR 7 has already passed in the senate and will move on to the house in this legislative session. If it passes the house (it is expected to) it will need to be passed again in a future legislative session, and with then be placed on a ballot referendum for Hoosiers to vote on.

Additional Rally Information
Organizers describe the rally as a silent protest intended to emphasize the attempts by the religious right to silence the gay and lesbian community. They also ask attendees to remember that they want no noise, rude behavior or disorderly conduct, and that rally supporters are asked to stay off the Statehouse grass, to avoid blocking entrances to the Statehouse and foot traffic on the sidewalks. 15 to 20 organizers of the event will be on hand to provide crowd control and to help attendees maintain order.

There will be several speakers, including the possibility of Senators who opposed the legislation.
Attendees of the Rally are encouraged to make signs. Organizers suggestions include: “SJR7 – The Hate Debate” or “SJR7 – Blatant Discrimination” or “Eric Miller -Conservative Approach; Extremist Agenda” or “Hate is Not a Family Value” or “It’s Our Constitution Too”

More information about the rally, including a map of the Statehouse, flyers that can be distributed, and parking information is available at [link deprecated: http://www.stopthebigots.org] Stopthebigots.org.

Parking for the Rally

Attendees of the rally are urged to carpool to the event due to downtown parking and traffic considerations. Parking at Circle Center Mall may provide the best location.

Continue ReadingStatehouse Rally for Equal Marriage Rights – March 8

Statehouse Rally for Equal Marriage Rights – March 8

In response to the State Legislature’s current bill (SJR 7) seeking to limit equal marriage rights for same-sex couples by amending the constitution, gay rights advocates and their friends and families are planning a Rally/Silent Protest at the east steps of the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday, March 8 at 11 a.m. to protest this piece of legislation and several others that are currently under consideration. Organizers are expecting over 1,000 supporters to attend the rally.

This rally will also serve as a counter rally to the one taking place on the west side of the statehouse, held by the right-wing organization Advance America, founded by former political candidate and longtime lobbyist Eric Miller. Miller is a supporter of amending the Indiana constitution to prevent equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The Legislation

A number of bills have been introduced into into the Indiana State Legislature this season that will have an effect on the lives of gay and lesbian citizens of Indiana. Here is a synopsis of three of them:

SJR 7 – EQUAL MARRIAGE RIGHTS: This bill seeks to amend the Indiana constitution to limit the possibility of marriage to a definition of one man and one woman, and additionally seeks to prevent any legal arrangements between same-sex couples that are intended to provide the same protections as marriage.

SJR 585 – ADOPTION/FOSTERING: This bill will prohibit gay people from being foster parents and adopting.

SJR 541 – DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS: This bill will limit eligibility under a state university health plan to an employee of the university and to the spouse and dependant children of the employee.

The first legislation, SJR 7 has already passed in the senate and will move on to the house in this legislative session. In the House of Representatives, SJR 7 is expected to be assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, which will conduct a hearing on the resolution in mid-March. A proposed constitutional amendment must be passed by two separately-elected legislatures, and then approved by voters in a state-wide referendum. The earliest such a vote could take place is November 2008.

Senators who voted no on SJR 7 include:
Anita Bowser (D-Michigan City)
Billie Breaux (D-Indianapolis)
John Broden (D-South Bend)
Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis)
Tim Lanane (D-Anderson)
Earline Rogers (D-Gary)
Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington)
Sam Smith (D-East Chicago)

Additional Rally Information

Organizers describe the rally as a silent protest intended to emphasize the attempts by the religious right to silence the gay and lesbian community. They also ask attendees to remember that they want no noise, rude behavior or disorderly conduct, and that rally supporters are asked to stay off the Statehouse grass, to avoid blocking entrances to the Statehouse and foot traffic on the sidewalks. 15 to 20 organizers of the event will be on hand to provide crowd control and to help attendees maintain order.

There will be several speakers, including the possibility of Senators who opposed the legislation speaking or making an appearance.
Attendees of the Rally are encouraged to make signs. Organizers suggestions include: “SJR7 – The Hate Debate” or “SJR7 – Blatant Discrimination” or “Eric Miller -Conservative Approach; Extremist Agenda” or “Hate is Not a Family Value” or “It’s Our Constitution Too”
More information about the rally, including a map of the Statehouse, flyers that can be distributed, and parking information is available at [link deprecated http://www.stopthebigots.org] Stopthebigots.org.

Rally organizer Pepper Partin explains the motivation for the rally: “We are being persecuted because of our sexual orientation, and sexual orientation is no more of a choice than our height or our eye color or anything else that is part of our pre-determined make-up. So we must make sure people understand that we are not a subculture and this is not a lifestyle, and that is a big reason we must stop people like Eric Miller and his organization from making people think we are nature’s mistakes deserving of only table scraps beneath the table of equality. Our constitution is for everyone – not just for those who feel they are superior in some sense.”

Parking for the Rally

Attendees of the rally are urged to carpool to the event due to downtown parking and traffic considerations. Parking at Circle Center Mall may provide the best location.

Continue ReadingStatehouse Rally for Equal Marriage Rights – March 8

My letter to the Indy Star about SJR-7

I’m writing to the citizens of Indiana regarding Senate Bill SJR-7, the anti-gay hate bill that just passed the Senate and will be moving to the house soon.

It’s fascinating to me that at the turn of the last century, Indianapolis was a mover and shaker on the national cultural scene. This city was at one time a hotbed for jazz music, a host of a major league baseball team, the home of nationally recognized artists (TC Steele, James Whitcomb Riley) and a breeding ground for national political figures. Indianapolis used to be a hot, hot town.

What happened to kill all of that? What turned us into the cultural backwater that we are today? The rise of the KKK and cultural conservativism in the 1920’s and the scandal and corruption that resulted from it. Bigotry and hatred sunk the state before, it’s going to do so again.

Gay rights advocates have been pointing out, correctly, that this bill will kill economic development in the state of Indiana, because companies will not be willing to move their businesses to a state where the goverment is bigotted to their employees. This bill’s strong wording WILL invalidate benefits that companies are currently providing for their employees, and that’s exactly the agenda that extremist hate groups like Eric Miller’s are aiming for.

It goes beyond big companies not moving to Indiana. If this state puts this hate and bigotry into the constitution, it means that people like me will leave the state. There will be a brain drain where thousands of the best and brightest pick up and move, and I will be one of them. And YOU NEED ME. If you want this state to recover and have a bright and healthy future, you need me, specifically, and thousands like me, to stay in Indiana.

You can start all the cultural initiatives that you want, you can move that “Big Red Arrow” all over the city, but if you don’t have people like me to attend your cultural events and write about them, to stimulate thought and ideas, to create art and visual work, to talk about the joy of living in Indianapolis and Indiana, it won’t mean anything.

Continue ReadingMy letter to the Indy Star about SJR-7

Marriage Discrimination Amendment Bill Passes Senate (SJR-7)

You may have read that yesterday the Senate passed SJR7, the bill designed to codify hate and discrimination against gay people into the Indiana Constitution. Soon it will pass the House, and then it will need to pass in another legislative season, and be voted on by the people of Indiana before it becomes the law of the land.

I fully expected it to happen, but I still felt almost knocked down by the shock of it. I want so much to be able to get married. It’s not going to happen in Indiana, apparently. My company has offices in Boston; it crossed my mind to look into getting transferred there.

This would not have happened if people I know had not voted Republican. And believe me, I’m not forgetting that. And I am holding a grudge.

Continue ReadingMarriage Discrimination Amendment Bill Passes Senate (SJR-7)