Monday, November 28, 2005

What You Should Know About Earl Salisbury

Last summer Advance Indiana exposed Indianapolis city-county councilor Virginia Cain’s anti-gay bigotry by publishing an e-mail she had sent to a local gay rights advocate, Seth Kreigh, in response to his e-mail asking her to support the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO). Sadly, yet another Republican councilor has sent a completely insensitive and demeaning e-mail communication to a supporter of the HRO.

Lori Morris sent an e-mail to Republican councilor Earl Salisbury, who represents the 13th district on the city’s far west side, which includes portions of Wayne and Decatur Townships, concerning the HRO as newly reintroduced Proposal 622. Morris’ e-mail specifically addressed bigoted comments Councilor Cain made to WTHR’s Mary Mills concerning her opposition to the HRO. Cain, echoing her e-mail last spring to Seth Kreigh, told Mills that homosexuality was a “behavior”, that it was not innate, and that it was bad for families.

Morris’ e-mail to Salisbury and other councilors said the following: “After reading Ginny Cains remark about the HRO being against 'family', I find that I must again point out the ignorance of her statement. I am forwarding a letter that was printed in a Vermont newspaper in 2000 from a mother that has had enough of the hatred directed towards her ‘family’. She has said it better that I ever could.” The mother’s moving letter described how her son had been driven to contemplate suicide because of the harassment and taunting he had been subjected to since he was a very young boy because of others' perception of him as being gay. A copy of the letter Morris included with her e-mail can be read at the end of this posting.

In a curt, sarcastic e-mail reply dated today, Salisbury wrote: “So if the laws change does the abuse stop? No more suicides? Promise?” Salisbury no doubt wrote these insensitive words without any fear of political fallout from them. Imagine a councilor reacting similarly to a constituent expressing concerns about lynchings in the context of the push to enact civil rights laws in the 1960s to protect African-Americans from discrimination. It wouldn’t be tolerated. And Salisbury’s cold indifference to the discrimination faced by gays, lesbians and transgender persons should not be tolerated either.

Unfortunately, many of the Republican councilors have the same attitude towards the HRO as Salisbury does. That is because the Marion County GOP has adopted “Murphy’s Law,” named in honor of GOP Chairman Rep. Mike Murphy, who has urged Republican councilors to vote in a bloc against the HRO so the party can use gay baiting tactics to unseat Democratic councilors who vote for the HRO in the 2007 city elections. Murphy actually believes this is the issue that will enable the GOP to regain control of the council!

To Murphy’s dismay, at least two Republican councilors, Scott Keller and Lance Langsford, are openly defying Murphy’s Law by sponsoring and supporting the HRO. At least one other Republican councilor may join them as well. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is facing a tough re-election race next year, also thumbed his nose at Murphy’s Law by enacting his own non-discrimination policy to protect gay and lesbian employees in his office from discrimination.

Councilors Cain and Salisbury might not make such comments, at least in public, if the mainstream media held their feet to the fire the way they do when public officials make comments that are racially or gender insensitive. For now, the GLBT community must rely on its network of bloggers to spread the word about these anti-gay bigots. Please spread the word about Cain and Salisbury every opportunity you get. You can tell them how you feel by e-mailing Earl Salisbury here, and by e-mailing Virigina Cain here.

The text of the mother’s letter Morris sent to the councilors is here:

As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be. Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont.

I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life with no dignity. You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair.

I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.No choice At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join.

The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you.

If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it.

For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can? A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders.

Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters. "Principles? You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending.

My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance. How dare he? you say.

These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage. You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?" Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?

By Sharon Underwood


Jeff Newman said...

The thing that stunned me the most about Salisbury's comments was the fact that he wrote them after reading a very moving piece about a real family and what it is like for a child to suffer hate and discrimination.

He can't plead ignorance; his constituent made an honest effort to educate him. Bigotry and complete insensitivity are the only explanations I can come up with.

I am ashamed for this city and state that we have elected officials like Salisbury. Sadly, there are way too many just like him.

Anonymous said...

I guess this tells us a lot though, about what kind of power the Republicans on the council think they have, because they're certainly not afraid to be quoted saying really outrageous things. They have no fear that this will come back to bite them in the ass.

Anonymous said...

Gary, can you turn on your rss syndication feed? It's a setting in blogger, and then you add the link to the links on the side of your page. I love reading your page, but I have trouble remembering to visit, because I read most blogs in a newsreader...

Gary R. Welsh said...

NEWS FLASH: Mr. Salisbury had a one-word reply in an e-mail he sent to me this morning: "Lies." Mr. Salisbury seems to be a man of many words.

Steph--Thanks for the advice on the syndication feed--I may need to follow up with you on that one.

Anonymous said...

He claimed those were lies? Holy crap. He had an ongoing exchange with Lori and Pepper Partin about his response, in which he claimed that he wasn't being flippant but was asking a serious question about gay suicide rates, saying that unless we can prove suicide rates will go down, he won't vote for the act.

Michael M. said...

I expect a little civility from our elected officials. It's been made abundantly clear to me that these people regard us as second-class citizens. Virginia Cain and Earl Salisbury and their ilk are simply not fit for public office. They deserve to lose their council seats.

Gary R. Welsh said...

CORRECTION: The original post identified Kevin Fyfe as the recipient of Ginny Cain's e-mail; it was in fact Seth Kreigh as indicated on the earlier story about Cain. Fyfe was the recipient of an e-mail from Ron Gibson citing his religious beliefs as the reason for not supporting the HRO as Advance Indiana reported last summer.

Jeff Newman said...

Asking a serious question about gay suicide rates, saying that unless we can prove suicide rates will go down, he won't vote for the act?

This guy is something else. He doesn't want to see GLBT people killing themselves, but anything short of that, well, f..k 'em.