Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Funeral Sanctity for Veterans; Nothing For Fags
Senator Brent Steele (R-Bedford) plans to introduce legislation during next year’s session he calls the “funeral sanctity bill”, which will make it a felony to stage a protest at a military funeral WISH-TV reports. Senator Steele decided to introduce the bill after extremist followers of the Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas brought their anti-gay message to the funeral of a Martinsville soldier, Sgt. Jeremy Dole, who was killed in Iraq. Phelps group, which has staged anti-gay protests for many years, recently turned their focus on military funerals. Phelps and his followers attribute America’s war dead as a punishment from God for the country’s failure to oppose homosexuality.
Senator Steele told WISH-TV: “These families need to be protected. They're fighting words and somebody's gonna get hurt at a funeral someday. If it'd been my kid they would have got their wish. If they wanted a reaction they would have gotten it.” Senator Steele is introducing his bill at the urging of veterans in his district. According to the report, a spokesman for Phelps predicted that Steele’s proposal, if enacted, would not stand up in court. Such a law would be highly susceptible to legal challenge on both free speech and equal protection grounds.
The anti-gay protests of the Rev. Phelps and his ilk are not at all new to Indiana. They have been present at many large gatherings in Indianapolis, most notably the 500 festival parade on Memorial Day weekend. Advance Indiana reported on a similar protest conducted in Corydon this past summer which was equally as ugly as the protest at the Martinsville funeral. Senator Steele believes action is necessary to support the families of our fallen soldiers from these ugly protests, but he offers no support for protecting the gay persons at whom these ugly protests are directed and against whom hate crimes, which are often fueled by bigoted persons like Phelps, are committed. Remarkably, Senator Steele has no words of condemnation for Phelps’ anti-gay message.
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has announced his intentions to propose legislation next year to impose tougher penalties on persons who commit crimes against a person or property because of race, religion, sexual orientation and other bias motivations. Indiana, embarrassingly, is just one of four states without such a hate crime law. According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Justice Department, the percentage of hate crimes committed against persons because of their sexual orientation is significantly higher in Indiana than the national average. If Senator Steele’s past voting record is any indication, don’t count on him to support Brizzi’s bill. Brizzi’s proposal will actually combat hate crimes. But Steele isn't interested in combating hate crimes. He’d rather issue press releases to pander to veterans groups, while turning a blind eye to the hate-filled bigotry Indiana’s gay and lesbian citizens face every day.