Monday, December 05, 2005

GOP Boycotts HRO Hearing; Action Deferred For Now

STANDING ROOM ONLY CROWD

GOP members of the Indianapolis City-County Council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee boycotted tonight’s hearing on Proposal 622, the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO), thereby depriving the committee of the requisite quorum for a vote tonight. Democrat Monroe Gray was out of town attending a meeting of the National League of Cities in Charlotte, North Carolina. Voting on the measure will be deferred until at least December 13 according to the committee’s chairman, Rozelle Boyd.

A car belonging to Republican leader Phil Borst, a member of the committee, sat in his parking space as the committee convened according to a reliable council source. Republican Councilors Jim Bradford and Bob Cochrum were the two remaining Republican council members not in attendance at the meeting. In addition to Boyd, Democrats Joanne Sanders and Greg Bowes were in attendance. Council President Steve Talley has been devoting time to his hospitalized wife, who is battling pancreatic cancer. The anti-gay bigoted Councilor Ginny Cain was on hand to lend moral support to leaders of the Christian right opposing the HRO.

Proposal 622 drew a standing room only crowd, with nearly three dozen members of the public testifying both for and against the measure presented by Democratic sponsor Jackie Nytes, along with Republican councilor and co-sponsor Scott Keller. While much of the public debate over Proposal 622 has focused on the language protecting persons from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, proponents were quick to point out that there is more. For example, veterans’ protection is expanded to include all veterans as opposed to just Vietnam veterans. The measure also updates the civil rights ordinance to reflect contemporary protections for persons with disabilities as set out in the federal ADA law.

Nytes offered testimony from a diverse group of individuals affected by the HRO, including several gay and transgender persons of all colors, parents of gay children, gay business owners and supportive Christian clerics.

In a marriage made in hell, leaders of the Christian right united with a group of black ministers to lead the charge against the HRO. The Christian right triumvirate of Eric Miller of Advance America, Curt Smith of the American Family Institute and Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana joined about a dozen African-American ministers in speaking against the HRO.

The union of these two distinct groups is quite a paradox. The Christian right once largely comprised the Ku Klux Klan, which ran Indiana politics during the early part of the 20th century, and which used its power to enact discriminatory laws against blacks, Catholics, Jews and any other group with which they morally disapproved. The Christian right, for example, supported the enactment of laws in Indiana and elsewhere banning interracial marriages.

A central theme of the black ministers' argument was that civil rights belonged to African-Americans alone, an argument which would have brought tears to the eyes of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of King’s most famous quotes is that “No man is free until all men are free.” King didn’t use any adjective to define “man” such as “black” or “Christian.” One black minister, holding true to his Christian belief that “homosexuality is an abomination,” said that the ministers speaking against the HRO represented “Christian” churches in contrast with the ministers speaking in favor of the HRO who he said were of “other denominations.” In other words, if you don't oppose homosexuality, you are not a Christian according to this minister.

The Christian right’s Curt Smith and Eric Miller both argued that there had been no demonstrated public policy problem with discrimination of gays and lesbians. Miller is married to his second wife, has no children and is not even a resident of the City of Indianapolis. Yet he testified that the adoption of the HRO would "pave the way for legal recognition of same sex marriages." Smith testified that there was “no evidence of community concern for legal recognition of homosexuality” beyond the “heartfelt passions of a few people.”

Borrowing a page out of the anti-gay bigoted Micah Clark, Republican 7th District congressional candidate RSR, whose campaign would have been better served by remaining more of a mystery, dropped jaws with his testimony. RSR argued that gays were “the most wealthy individual segment of Indianapolis’ economy,” which demonstrates that “gays are not being denied employment and fair housing opportunities.” Indianapolis Rainbow Chamber President Chris Douglas appropriately discredited RSR’s testimony with legitimate economic analysis and noted that major business organizations such as the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce support the HRO. Anti-semites in this country have similarly used wealth to disparage Jews ala Adolph Hitler.

Speaking of Clark, he warned councilors that the adoption of a similar ordinance in Lafayette had proven very divisive and cost the councilor who sponsored the ordinance his seat when he sought re-election. He argued that, since the adoption of the Lafayette ordinance, no cases of discrimination had been found based upon a person’s sexual orientation, thereby proving that it was an unnecessary law in his mind.

A very interesting observation was made by several proponents of the HRO tonight with respect to the opponents’ argument that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and, therefore, should not be afforded “special rights.” At least one protected civil right, religion, is a lifestyle choice, but none of the black ministers speaking in opposition to the HRO argued for denying protection from discrimination on the basis of religion. This really does punch a big hole in the opposition’s argument against elevating lifestyle to a protected right, even though supporters are quick to note that sexual orientation and gender identity are determined biologically or genetically and are not chosen, a fact all major medical organizations are in agreement upon.

The HRO will now await a vote of the committee most likely on December 13, 2005. It remains unclear whether action by the full city-county council will take place before the end of the year. There are at least 12 councilors publicly supporting the measure with enough other councilors leaning in favor of it to reach the magical number of 15. With the resurrection of the law enforcement consolidation ordinance, and the possible deal-making between supporters of the HRO and the law enforcement ordinance to win approval for both, anything is possible.

10 comments:

Jeff Newman said...
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Jeff Newman said...

Who was that guy citing statistics? A congressional candidate?

You should have seen him after his testimony; he was practically high-fiving all of those black preachers (who have no idea that in another era their buddy Eric Miller would be unrecognizable under his white hood).

I had to leave and didn't get a chance to hear Chris set the record straight, but that idiot was citing statistics that simply don't exist. It's one thing to twist numbers (the old figures don't lie, but liars figure), but this guy was just plain making it up.

He even used the Indianapolis Star as his "source." I'll offer a $200 cash reward for the article that backs up his statements. I'm not worried about losing the cash; there is no such article.

Advance Indiana said...

His name is Richard Scott Reynolds-the only Republican running against Carson right now. The statistics he supposedly cited from the Star actually appeared in the Micah Clark column, which Jon Keep of the Rainbow Chamber tore apart in a follow up column.

Marti said...

My question is... as it always has been... DO WE HAVE THE THREE VOTES!

It's my understanding that Steve Talley is a possible vote but I've not heard that any other vote is up for grabs. As far as bartering votes, do you think Democrats would screw Bart Peterson a second time to get 622 passed? I think not.

So... where in the hell are we going to get the votes? It's that simple.

Advance Indiana said...

Marti,

It won't be voted on unless it has 15 votes. Depending on who you talk to there are either 14 or 15 members who plan to vote for it at this point, if a vote is taken. But those extra votes have not publicly committed.

How would Democrats be screwing Peterson by adding a few votes for the HRO in exchange for a Republican vote for the police merger?

Kevin said...

Jeff,
in the interest of fairness and of keeping everyone informed, there was such an article:

http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?s_site=indystar&p_multi=IN|&p_product=IN&p_theme=gannett&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_text_search-0=gays%20AND%20showing%20AND%20economic%20AND%20clout&s_dispstring=gays%20showing%20economic%20clout&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no

It was printed June 23, 2005 entitled: "Gays Showing Economic Clout" since it is more than 30 days old, to reprint the whole thing, you will have to buy it but I have a copy that I printed out the day it ran. Email me if you want to see the whole thing.

Advance Indiana said...

Kevin,

To be fair, Reynolds completely misconstrued the economic data just as Clark did--I would urge you to read Jon Keep's response to this argument, which is completely irrelevant to the question of whether the HRO should be passed. Jewish Americans can attest to the fact that economic envy can lead to discrimination. Hitler played that card to the hilt in rallying working class Germans behind the Holocaust. The protections in our civil rights laws for religion was sought by Jewish Americans for this very reason.

Kevin said...

Oh I absolutely agree! I did read Jon Keep's response. I was just pointing out that there was in fact an article in The Star and the guy didn't make it up.

Jeff Newman said...

I stand corrected about the existence of the article, but read what it says at the bottom:

Gay market demographics

In the U.S., same-sex couples have slightly higher incomes than different-sex married couples. In Indiana, the reverse is true.

Reynolds lied in his testimony; he cited an article as support for his position that actually stated just the opposite.

Kevin said...

Jeff,
I think you should use that at the next committee hearing and call that guy to the carpet.