Monday, January 15, 2007

Indiana's GLBT Community Needs A Guy Like Brent Steele To Fight For Their Rights

Sen. Brent Steele (R), a Bedford attorney, is all for protecting and expanding the rights of people he deems near and dear to him. If Indiana's GLBT community could only get a guy like Steele on their side, who knows what they could accomplish for the good of the cause. Just look at what Sen. Steele can do for people he likes.

Last year, Senator Steele used his lawmaking ability to pass a law making it a crime to demonstrate at funerals. Sen. Steele, like many people, was outraged at Rev. Fred Phelps and his Christian fundamentalist followers from Topeka, Kansas, who demonstrated at the funerals of fallen soldiers from the Iraq War. Phelps, it seems, believes our soldiers deserve to die because our country supposedly tolerates homosexuality. Sen. Steele wasn't concerned in the least bit by the message of hatred Phelps and his followers were directing at gays and lesbians, only the families of the veterans who had to endure the ugly displays of bigotry. If he had been, he would have supported a hate crimes law, which is what Indiana really needs, to enhance the penalty for crimes committed because of a bias the offender had towards his victim(s) because of their religion, race, national origin, or sexual orientation. Indiana stands in the company of just four states without such a law.

This year, Sen. Steele is back with another proposal to protect the rights of another group of folks he likes. He is proposing a constitutional amendment that makes it a fundamental right to hunt, fish and harvest game in the state of Indiana. SJR-14 adds a new section to Article 1, which reads: "The people have a right to hunt, fish, and harvest game, which are a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject to laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly."

So while Indiana's gay and lesbian community can't get the Indiana legislature to pass a hate crimes law to help protect them from bigoted criminals, or a civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination against them in employment, housing and public accommodations, Sen. Steele's going to make sure that every card-carrying member of the NRA is guaranteed a fundamental right to play with their guns. Never mind that the Indiana Constitution already makes it a fundamental right to own a gun, a right recognized by our own state Supreme Court as being broader than the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As for gay marriages, don't even think about it. Sen. Steele, like 80% of the Indiana legislature, is a fierce opponent of same-sex marriages. He's an avid supporter of SJR-7, which will define marriage in the Indiana Constitution to ensure only marriages between a man and a woman will be recognized in Indiana. On the other hand, Steele is a big fan of opposite-sex marriages. He's so much of a fan that he wants to give couples more options on who they can choose to solemnize their marriages. SB 19, which he is sponsoring this year, will add the governor, lieutenant governor and members of the General Assembly to the list of those eligible to solemnize marriages. Yes, Sen. Steele himself will be able to administer your wedding vows if his bill becomes law, which I'm certain it will based upon his past record of legislative success.

So is there anyone in the Indiana legislature who will fight for Indiana's GLBT community with the same level of commitment Sen. Steele fights for the people he likes? Or is the real answer to figure out a way to make an intelligent man like Sen. Steele understand he needs to open his heart as wide for other people, who are in much greater need of protection under the law than the people with whom he associates on a day-to-day basis? In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr, Day, perhaps Sen. Steele and other legislators should listen to the advice King gave us. Instead of asking "what will happen to me if I stop to help this man?, do as the the good Samaritan and reverse the question: If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should run. You live downtown right? Glenn Howard's district or Bil...err I mean Jean Breaux's?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Howard's my senator, and John Day is my state representative. Both districts are heavily Democratic as a result of gerrymandering. They are both generally supportive of GLBT issues, but they are not very effective advocates for the issues within the legislature.

Anonymous said...

You're right. Glenn Howard is universally viewed as a joke. When he does waddle to the mike, you can't understand his mumbling ramblings. No one--no ONE--goes to him for advice in the legislature, although he's right on most of the issues.

John Day is effective as a vote, but can't lead a three-car parade.
Nice man, though. So's Glenn.

The Democratic caucus is not blessed with people to whom others go for advice or leadership. And I am a Democrat. It's a sad story, but true. This old-boys' club almost scorns leadership and brains.

But, at least it's not BBoz running things. Thank God.

Anonymous said...

I know it's off the point but touches on a pet peeve of mine ...

Steele may say his bill made it a crime to demonstrate at funerals but that's not what it did. It upped the penalty for disorderly conduct -- yelling at the top of your lungs, etc. -- near a funeral. What Steele doesn't seem to get when he explains his bill is that disorderly conduct anywhere was always a crime. This just differentiates penalties for it.