The IFI is one of the leading proponents of SJR7, the proposed Indiana Constitutional amendment on marriage rights, and other legislative efforts to deny equal rights to LGBT folks . . . Tony's prominent appearance before this group, as a representative of a major sports institution in Indianapolis, sends a chilling message . . . The implied message of Colts and NFL corporate endorsement of the IFI's views is a very unsettling one.
Sherfick's original post gained notice by a number of GLBT blogs and organizations across the nation. Although I've been a frequent critic of the IFI and its leader, Curt Smith, I did not criticize Coach Dungy for his participation in the IFI event. It is my belief that Dungy accepted the invitation without consideration of where the organization stood on gay rights issues, and he's not been noted for getting involved in the political process in the past.
Some of you may recall that I questioned Gov. Mitch Daniels' decision to speak to the group, particularly given Smith's public statements opposing the governor's EEO policy of non-discrimination towards gays, lesbians and transgender state employees. I felt it sent a chilling message for Gov. Daniels to give his blessing to a group that was fighting so hard to relegate GLBT citizens to second-class status. The Indiana Action Network originally planned a protest of the event, but backed down at the urging of folks from Indiana Equality, including its then-president, Kathy Sarris.
I was a bit surprised to read in the Star today that Sarris, on behalf of IE's Education Fund, was speaking out against Dungy's appearance before the IFI. "From my perspective, I am a little disappointed in that I would think he would want to stay out of the political arena, and the family institute is a political organization," said Kathy Sarris, president of the Indiana Equality Education Fund, a gay-rights advocacy group. Dungy did not agree to an interview in response to the story, but the Colts did provide a statement. The Star's Robert King reports, "The team said it was unaware of any specific goals of the Indiana Family Institute, noting that "Coach Dungy's feelings on the importance of marriage and family are well known." "He, of course, is free to speak to any group he wishes," the statement added. "The club does not take positions in political issues in which it is not directly involved. The Colts do not endorse any political or religious position taken by any group that any Colts employee decides to speak or lend his or her name to."
For his part, Smith tells the Star he's never discussed the issue of gay marriage with Dungy, and that it would be wrong for anyone to assume his position on the issue based on his appearance at the IFI event. "The goal of this award is to celebrate people who live out the family ethic that we think is essential to healthy families. You don't have to agree with us on all of our public policy issues," he said.
I find it interesting that IE would make a statement on Dungy's appearance before the IFI, while the organization insisted everyone else keep their powder dry about Gov. Daniels' appearance before the IFI a couple of years ago. IE also refused to publicly speak out against Eric Miller and Micah Clark when their respective organizations, Advance America and the American Family Association, were putting out false information about Rep. Greg Porter's hate crimes bill, HB 1459, and using bigoted and hateful language singling out GLBTs in their successful effort to defeat the legislation. A battle against Coach Dungy over this issue will not win any public support for gay rights. IE would do well to choose its battles more wisely in the future.
Bilerico's Bil Browning is reacting to the Star's late arrival to the issue. Click here to read his response.