Monday, June 13, 2005

Civil Rights Activists Turn Up The Heat On Bosma

A gaggle of lobbyists who attended House Speaker Brian Bosma's fundraiser at the Rathskellar Biergarten along Massachusetts Avenue were greeted by nearly a hundred protesting civil rights activists organized by the Indiana Action Network ("IAN"). Protestors carried signs and shouted "Shame", "Stop the Bigotry" and "Bosma's Gotta Go". Many passersby during the rush hour traffic on Michigan Avenue and New Jersey Street joined in the protest by honking their horns in support. IAN organized the protest in response to what it perceives as a "gross act of hypocrisy and injustice to our families" for Bosma to conduct his fundraiser in the heart of the area of the City revitalized, in large part, by the gay and lesbian community of Indianapolis.

Civil rights activists have been alarmed by the fervor with which House Speaker Bosma has pursued Eric Miller's and Advance America's bigoted agenda against gays and lesbians. In particular, IAN cites Bosma's dogged pursuit of SJR 7, an amendment to the Indiana Constitution which bans same sex marriages and civil unions. Bosma has in the past described the proposed amendment as "the most critical piece of the people’s business." A press release from IAN complained that "Bosma is apparently willing to promote gay-friendly Mass Ave as a flourishing tourist and business district while simultaneously advocating the curtailing of human rights for Mass Ave's inhabitants and their families."

The protest remained peaceful for the most part. Violence nearly erupted when an arriving guest attempted to snatch a camera out of the hands of one of the protestors. A scuffle ensued, but the protest organizers quickly extinguished what could have become a violent confrontation. Several of the arriving guests hurled insults at protestors, including an old favorite, "kiss my ass." Others guests looked for another entrance to avoid the protestors altogether, including Bosma. The east entrance to the Biergarten, which is typically open to the public, was barred shut by a 15-foot high wooden gate, walling off Bosma's guests from the protestors. Organizers ushered protestors to the east side wall of the Biergarten, who began shouting towards the corralled guests. An Indianapolis Police officer was dispatched to the scene but left a short time later when he saw that the protest was peaceful. Democrat State Representative David Orentlicher, a strong supporter of gay civil rights who represents a northside Indianapolis district, greeted the protestors and thanked them for their efforts.

IAN and those who gathered to support the protest should be applauded for their efforts. As the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, Bosma is a leader of all the people, not just fundamentalist Christians. He has to understand and appreciate the consequences his pursuit of a fundamentalist Christian agenda has on people who don't prescribe to this agenda, in particular when it leads to the denial of fundamental rights guaranteed by our federal and state constiutions, such as the "separation of church and state" and "equal treatment under the law." I did not agree with the protestors who criticized the Rathskellar for permitting its facilities to be used for Bosma's campaign. The Raskellar management has been extremely friendly to Indianapolis' gay community. It has hosted many gay friendly events over the years, including a gay friendly concert this past Saturday evening at the conclusion of Indy Pride Fest. The Raskerllar should be open to the entire Indianapolis community, not just those with whom we agree politically. It is unfair to criticize a business which has played such an important role in the revitalization of Massachusetts Avenue for all Indianapolis residents to enjoy.

The mainstream media largely ignored the large protest so well-organized by IAN. Only WISH-TV showed up to cover the event among the area television stations. WIBC News ignored the event as it did Indy Pride Fest. A reporter for Intake magazine was on the scene interviewing protestors. Bosma, who never appeared in view of the protestors, appeared for an interview with WISH-TV outside the Raskerllar at the conclusion of his fundraiser. Bosma complained that the protestors were "too aggressive," and that they were attempting to "segregate Massachusetts Avenue" from the rest of the community. He said that he and his friends often frequent businesses along Massachusetts Avenue. Judging from Bosma's reaction I think he really missed the point of the protest. For the sake of us all, I do hope that Speaker Bosma will grow to appreciate that by pursuing a political agenda using "wedge" issues like gay marriage bans for political gain, he is the one segregating us as a society. If he is truly interested in a fully integrated society, then he should look for ways of uniting us rather than dividing us.


Bil Browning said...

As one of the organizers of the protest (and concurrent fundraiser for IAN), I just wanted to thank you for the coverage and the kind words.

As for the Rathskeller being a target, well, that was one of those group decisions... *shrugs* Not everyone here agreed with it either so that's why it was such a minor target compared to Bosma...

You can get more info on upcoming actions at or my blog for GLBT community leaders -

Jerame Davis said...

Thank you for such a fantastic write up of the Indiana Action Network protest of speaker Bosma at the Rathskeller. Your analysis of the day's events couldn't have been more accurate.

Mr. Bosma has been no friend to the GLBT community and this protest at the Rathskeller was only one small aspect of our campaign to point out the hypocrisy and bigotry in our state government. Our elected officials should be held accountable for the lies and deceit they are spreading with no other purpose than to destroy our families and slander our community to raise money and keep their positions of power.

Hoosiers deserve to know the truth about the GLBT community and they deserve to know the truth about their elected officials. We are continuing our campaing of truth-telling and we will not stop as long as the kind of hypocritical narrow-minded bigotry is directed at GLBT Hoosiers.

As president of IAN, I can safely say that our entire organization supports what you are doing here, Gary. Your spotlight on Eric Miller is a long-needed reality-check for him and his supporters. We've all known for a long time that Advance America is rotten and corrupt to the core. Thank you for shedding a bright spotlight on the dark and seedy underbelly of this despicable organization.

Keep up the great work!