Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Senator Brent Steele Glib About His Bigotry Against Gays

A couple of years ago, a local political journalist shared with me a conversation he had with then-House Speaker Brian Bosma over drinks a short time after his party recaptured controlled of the Indiana House of Representatives. Bosma couldn't hide his enthusiasm towards passing a constitutional amendment discriminating against Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens. Speaking of his intentions, Bosma, according to the political journalist, said he was going to "f___ them." The account only confirmed what I already knew about Rep. Bosma, but it made the fight to stop his reckless, extremist agenda more personal hearing it in those terms. Members of Indiana's GLBT community have been greeted by a similar glibness from Sen. Brent Steele towards the passage of SJR-7. Responding to e-mails urging his opposition to SJR-7, Sen. Brent Steele responded:

Thank you for your email regarding Senate Joint Resolution 7. I appreciate your comments; however, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the marriage amendment.

The amendment does not seek to regulate private conduct, only state recognition of such conduct by virtue of preferred benefits such as tax status and related legal issues. Marriage is a legal and social construct which grants over 1100 legal rights and privileges. Marriage law has always been a matter of state law jurisdiction and the amendment simply seeks to preserve the law in its current state.

Again, thank you for writing. If I may be of further assistance to you in the future, please let me know.

Matter-of-factly, Sen. Steele says he and others who support SJR-7 are not seeking to regulate private conduct. Yet, we know the law in Indiana has never recognized same-sex marriages, a state statute specifically prohibits it and Indiana courts have upheld the constitutionality of that prohibition. As if to further rub it in the face of opponents of SJR-7, Sen. Steele boasts of the more than "1,100 legal rights and privileges" which accrue to those who are legally allowed to marry.

Sen. Steele's bigotry towards gays and lesbians is unmistakable. He is opposed to any law which would prohibit discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation. While he will not support a hate crimes law which provides for enhanced penalties against persons who commit crimes against a person because of their sexual orientation, last year he authored legislation to create a felony crime for any person who protests within 500 feet of a veteran's funeral. Sen. Steele wanted to punish extremist, religious zealots who protested at military funerals for fallen soldiers, who claimed the soldiers deserved to die because America promoted homosexuality. In authoring this legislation, Sen. Steele expressed no regrets that the religious zealots engaged in hate speech against gays and lesbians; his only objection was that they directed blame for homosexuality towards the fallen soldiers, which their families found offensive.

As if to further rub the marriage issue in the face of Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens, Sen. Steele decided he would like to be able to administer the marriage oath to couples as a state legislator. Sen. Steele told media he was surprised to learn that he couldn't administer the marriage oath at one of his own children's weddings as a state senator, and he thought that was wrong. Sen. Steele is taking care of that problem by introducing a bill, which allows state legislators, the governor and Lt. governor to solemnize marriages in Indiana. SB 19 passed the Senate by as large of a margin as SJR-7 by a 39-7 vote. And he thinks same-sex marriages debases traditional marriages? How about a marriage administered by a pompous politician?

Sen. Steele is in so many ways like the segregationist of the past who could freely speak of their bigotry towards blacks without any fear of retribution at the polls or public admonitions against such patent bigotry. Looking at his biography, I see he boasts of being a Shriner and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, the highest rank in all of Masonry. Steele is a Freemason no doubt because his father was a Freemason, and his father's father was a Freemason. In Indiana, the Ku Klux Klan drew most of its members during its heyday in the 1920s from the ranks of the Freemasons. Membership in the Freemasons in Indiana was virtually synonymous with membership in the KKK for a time. I hasten to add that today's Freemasons are not at all like their brethren from the 1920s. I freely admit members of my own family have been and are Freemason. Given the past history of the fraternal organization, you would be surprised to read their creed, which says:

Human progress is our cause,
liberty of thought our supreme wish,
freedom of conscience our mission,
and the guarantee of equal rights
to all people everywhere our ultimate goal.

Obviously, Sen. Steele has never subscribed to the Scottish Rite Creed, but that should come as no surprise because he also insists SJR-7 does not discriminate against gays and lesbians. The only thing Sen. Steele cared to share with his fellow colleagues during the debate on SJR-7 was a little friendly reminder that if they dared change a single word in the discriminatory amendment, it would reset the clock, meaning the religious right wouldn't have their favored wedge issue--igniting ant-gay sentiment--to get out the vote among their faithful numbers in the next election.

So how does someone of such shallow thinking rise to the ranks of the Indiana Senate? In Sen. Steele's case, he got his power the old fashion way--he inherited it. Yes, if you ever travelled down Bedford way you've no doubt driven on the Ruell Steele Highway--a tribute to another member of the Steele family who served for a long time in the General Assembly before Sen. Steele. There seems to be a lot of that in Indiana, which may help explain why the nativist sentiment seems to play so well here.


Wilson46201 said...

That B-Boz statement was breath-taking in its arrogance and callousness. I had always just figured the guy was pandering for political power with his championing of "marriage" - it looks like he is mean-spirited too! Very ugly!

Anonymous said...

Funny...I always thought Boz might be a closeted guy. And I am not alone in that assessment. I know he has a rep as a skirt-chase,r but, having talked to him multiple times, let's just say I think he's covering some latent and hidden tendancies.

And the Steele highway is named for a man who was a leader in the rural electrification movement. From what I've heard, a good man. I wonder if he's related to Brent...

I've decided to shift my tactics. I've written all of them. I've gotten no responses except from my rep, David O., whose response was heartening and reasoned. My senator is Lubbers, whom I know pretty well, and she has not responded to my Dec.11 or Jan.15 letters.

From today on, I'm praying for all of them, and writing them to tell them so. And praying for myself, because the anger is rising too high.

Anonymous said...

My friends.. come and express that anger in person at the Indiana Equality "Read the Fine Print" Rally on MONDAY, FEB. 19th @ 1:00 PM in the Indiana Statehouse. Candace Gingrich is the featured speaker.

This is YOUR LAST CHANCE to be heard... as this measure goes to the House.

Take this opportunity to speak to your representative face to face. And if yours is already on our side, then talk to Speaker Bauer-- he is the one man who can make a difference still.. in his committee assignment.. in his behind the scenes talk.. and the action on the floor.

And by all means pray! It worked for the Colts, right?