Monday, June 06, 2005

Keller Confident Indy Gay Rights Ordinance Will Become Law

Indianapolis City Councilman Scott Keller, a Republican and co-sponsor of Proposal 68 along with Democratic at-large council member Jackie Nytes, remains confident a new civil rights law will be enacted protecting Indianapolis residents from discrimination based upon sexual orientation or identity sometime in the near future. Keller was the lone Republican on the council voting with ten Democrats in support of Proposal 68, which failed when five Democrats joined thirteen Republicans in defeating the measure by an 18-11 vote at an April 26 meeting of the city-county council. Advance America's Eric Miller was quick to take credit for defeating the measure. The organization inundated council members with a last-minute e-mail campaign in opposition to Proposal 68. Keller himself received no fewer than 700 e-mails. The e-mail included false and misleading information about the measure's true effect, including a false claim that it would force churches to hire homosexuals.

Keller believes Proposal 68 is needed because equal opportunities for employment and housing are "basic to what America is all about." He believes that, while "a person's bad credit or past work performance are a legitimate basis" to evaluate a person, a person's race, color, religion, sexual orientation or sexual identity "should never be a legitimate basis" to deny a person employment or housing. Keller also believes the passage of Proposal 68 is critical to future economic development efforts for the City. Keller cites Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, which describes the important role the "creative class" has in the economic development of a community. The creative class includes artists, musicians, scientists, teachers and other professionals, who as a group are very diverse and choose to live in communities accepting of diversity. Florida's book identifies those American cities where the most creative people live, which includes Austin, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, New York and Minneapolis among others. Not surprising is Indianapolis' absence from the list. Keller agrees with Florida's thesis, and believes that the creative class will shun Indianapolis if they believe it is intolerant of any group of people, including gays and lesbians.

Economic development is something Keller knows a lot about. He played a major role in the revitalization of downtown, including the successful revitalization of Massachusetts Avenue. He has been responsible for bringing numerous art galleries and restaurants downtown, as well as the Phoenix Theater. Keller has also been active in revitalizing the old neighborhoods adjoining the downtown area. Keller, a personal property appraiser by trade, has represented a near-eastside district since his election in 2003. His district, which includes neighborhoods such as Woodruff Place, Cottage Home and Holy Cross, was expected to elect a Democrat council member. Most political pundits were surprised when Keller edged out his Democratic opponent, an incumbent council member, by a handful of votes.

Keller describes himself as a "moderate, centrist Republican." Keller finds his position in opposition to discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgendered persons a "natural position" for a "centrist Republican" like himself. He says his views are similar to most of the Republicans he grew up with in Marion County. He said he has been approached by dozens of Republicans of all ages since the council's vote last April applauding him for his support of Proposal 68. According to Keller, last April the majority of the council reacted to a "vocal minority"; the next time Keller promises the voice of the "centrist majority" will be heard. Keller also assures us that he will not be the lone Republican vote next time. "There will be more Republican votes next time, " said Keller.

The Marion County Republicans are fortunate to have a voice of reason like Keller's among its elected officials. If it has any hopes of returning to power in Marion County, it is going to have to reach out to more people who think like Keller; otherwise, Democrats will continue to hold their new-found power for many years to come.

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