On the local level, however, there is an unmistakable -- and welcome -- change in the air. It began with Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who expanded his office's nondiscrimination policy to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and extended to Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has pointedly avoided anti-gay rhetoric. Indianapolis City-County Council member Scott Keller has championed equal rights for gays and lesbians.
At a recent fundraising dinner for Lambda Legal, a gay civil rights group, Republicans were well represented; among the 500 plus guests, I saw the GOP's county chairman, its candidate for mayor, a couple of ward chairs, and a number of others who have not previously attended.
And when Indiana Equality sent a questionnaire to all candidates in the upcoming election for City-County Council, the responses from a number of Republican candidates were a pleasant surprise.
One Republican respondent wrote, "The role of government is not to promote distinctions; rather, to recognize the challenges facing each community and adopt a course of action that ensures that the civil liberties and personal freedoms of each are protected . . . understanding works to eliminate prejudice driven by fear and ignorance. When you eliminate prejudice, you eliminate a threat and the community is safer."
Another said, "I respect everyone's right to live without prejudice or discrimination, whatever their race, beliefs or sexual orientation. I live my life that way and my wife and I raise our children that way."
And in a response that hearkened back to the "old" GOP, one candidate wrote "(My district) is a diverse mix of people -- straight/gay, rich/poor, black/white and every shade in between -- but we all have one thing in common. All of us are finding it more difficult to provide for our families. And I mean family in the broadest sense of the word -- however you choose to define it. I have no private or political agenda to further. I just want local government to get back to the basics."
I couldn't agree more.
A number of local Republicans were highly critical of Kennedy after she left the party. She had, after all, been the beneficiary of several jobs and appointments by Republican administrations. Others, like Chris Douglas and myself, would have preferred she remained within the party and fight out those differences rather than throwing in the towel to the religious right. It is refreshing that she now acknowledges the difference those who stayed behind to fight are now making in returning the party back to its roots as the party of Lincoln.