Wednesday, January 31, 2007

They Just Don't Get It

The proponents of SJR-7 insist there is no need to fear a part of the constitutional amendment to limit marriage between one man and one woman that does more than just that. The Star's Bill Ruthhart takes up the issue on the day the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on SJR-7. Ruthart writes:

Two years ago, the General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to place the ban in the Constitution even though Indiana law already defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. But this time the debate is likely to center on how the amendment affects more than gay couples.

Opponents plan to attack the plan by pointing to the second sentence of the proposed amendment, language that they say carries the potential for workers in some government or education jobs to lose so-called domestic-partner benefits and for single women to lose protection under domestic violence laws . . .

The first sentence of the amendment defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

While that troubles opponents, they're just as concerned by the second sentence, which says that neither the constitution nor state law can be construed as giving "the legal incidents of marriage" to unmarried couples or groups.

On the second paragraph, Walter Botich of Stop The Amendment tells Ruthart, "These senators are apparently willing to sacrifice everyone for the sake of a little more gay-bashing." "They're playing politics with people's lives," he added. The sponsor of SJR-7, who couldn't even explain the second paragraph under questioning during debate of the amendment two years ago, still hasn't made an effort to understand his own amendment. "I think there has been a concerted effort to muddy the waters on this issue," said Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, author of the amendment." "All the legal reasoning I've seen suggests the second section does none of the negative things that the gay community has suggested it does."

Ruthart makes no mention of recent news stories circulating the Internet raising questions about Hershman's own hypocrisy. Hershman's ex-wife told the Logansport Pharos-Tribune in 2000 her ex-husband drove her to an abortion clinic in Merrillville and forced her to get an abortion before filing for a divorce one week later. Although Hershman denied at the time he forced his ex-wife to get an abortion, he didn't' deny the fact she obtained the abortion or he filed for divorce a week later.

The twice-married, hypocritical Eric Miller of Advance America boasts to Ruthart the amendment will have more support from lawmakers this year than it did two years ago. "We don't want courts to have the opportunity to rule that marriage can be between two men or two women," said Miller, founder of Advance America, a Indianapolis-based conservative group. "I think it's very important we put it right into the Constitution to help protect the institution of marriage."

Ruthart's story also includes a comment from one of Indiana Equality's paid lobbyists. "John Joanette, a lobbyist for Indiana Equality, a gay-rights group, disagreed, saying that more and more Hoosiers oppose the amendment and that most think debating the issue is a waste of time." Some members of the GLBT community are questioning the loyalties of Joanette's partner and fellow lobbyist, Mark St. John. In an editorial of the current edition of The Word, editor Ted Fleischaker raises questions about St. John's role in communicating to House Speaker Pat Bauer on behalf of Indiana's GLBT community that people would understand if he gave up the fight to block SJR-7. You may recall Bauer dropped a bomb on Indiana's GLBT community shortly before last November's election announcing he would allow a vote on SJR-7 if he became speaker again, saying, "It's not worth the time." Fleischaker writes:

Who speaks for us? Who speaks for you or for I? Do we get to choose or does a small group of often self-important and self-appointed folks claim they are the voice of the gay and lesbian community?

Sadly, this newspaper thinks that is the case, as many of the mainstream views we find in the community are either being misrepresented to the outside world or ignored by a small clique who whitewash over the fact that what’s being told to the outside is their, not a consensus view of how we as gays and lesbians feel . . .

A prime example is circulating about an alleged “leader” who supposedly more or less told a politician gays and lesbians wouldn’t really be too upset if he pleased the right wing and gave them what they wanted on a certain issue. Now folks are demanding to know why this happened, who made the decision and who the group is (or thinks they are) to speak for us. Sadly, in this case we can’t step back and start again...the damage is done and the cat is out of the bag.

Fleischaker thinks someone should be held to account for St. John's actions. "If holding them to account means resignations or firings, then so be it, but we can no longer appear to be Laurel and Hardy, Cheech and Chong and Bart Simpson rolled into one or two individuals when we are asked to speak before a camera, city or legislative committee," he said.

Sources confirm the account described by Fleischaker. Observant AI readers will recall our own criticism of a $500 contribution St. John made to Rep. Woody Burton (R-Greenwood) in the last campaign cycle. Burton, of course, sponsored Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, and has consistently advocated against GLBT rights during his legislative career. St. John defended the contribution on the basis Burton had assisted him with another client unrelated to his work for Indiana Equality, but his divided loyalties have undermined the credibility of IE. Most of the money raised by IE goes directly into the pocket of St. John to pay his lobbying fees. This is one of the many reasons I will not contribute another dime to IE despite my past support for the organization. At some point, Indiana's GLBT community needs to figure out the extent of the harm IE has done by its past actions and build a new statewide organization that speaks for the larger community, and not just a handful of self-appointed leaders.


Rhonda Redman said...

I met Mark St.John in South Bend last year and he very clearly stated that the marriage amendment was going to pass and there was nothing we could do to stop it. I was shocked to hear someone in his position had already given up the fight.

Anonymous said...

Why is St. John given any role in GLBT matters after his role in plundering Indiana Cares and causing Indiana to lose HIV/AIDS funding?

Anonymous said...

So IE gets rid of St. John, who does the lobbying?

Maybe we could send Ted to the State House to save the day. After all, his esteemed publication is truly a fine representation of the community don't you think?

And damn Gary, IE has new leadership, don't they deserve a chance before you start calling for a new statewide organization? Did you talk to any of them before you posted this?

Gary R. Welsh said...

The new leadership to which you refer, Jeff, was once again elected behind closed doors by persons who have self-appointed themselves to speak on behalf of the community at large. I held one of the most successful house parties for IE last year and got nothing but a door slammed in my face for my efforts. Others have been similarly treated. If anyone has room to complain, it's me. I put my credibility on the line to help IE, and they made a fool of me. They want your money, and then they want you to shut up and go away. That's not how I operate. Ted and The Word aren't the issue here. I've disagreed with Ted on a number of issues, but I have to say he hit the nail on the head with his comments this time. It is disappointing to learn St. John acted with the blessings of IE. When Bauer made that statement, it was not known then that he had been given anybody's blessing who professed to speak on behalf of the GLBT community. Now we know the truth. Let the chips fall where they may.

Anonymous said...

You're telling me that St. John contributed $500 to the gay-bashing Woody Burton? I'm betting he gave nothing to Jon Elrod, a Republican who actually supports equality. How could anyone associated with IE approve of this?

Anonymous said...

AI writes:

When Bauer made that statement, it was not known then that he had been given anybody's blessing who professed to speak on behalf of the GLBT community.

Doesn't this leave the impression that somehow all some community spokesperson had to do was not "bless" this thing and Bauer would have just rolled over and said "OK, well I guess I'll leave it alone since you told me to."

Don't you think that St. John's conversations with Bauer had a little more political parlay to them?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, given the earlier posting regarding the South Bend comments by Mr. SJ, it's clear the "blessing" was already given.

If your organization's hired lobbyist is telling anyone who will listen, ten months out, that the cause is lost, the political powers-that-be can smell that blood in the water. They're not fools. To ask any of them to be heroes now, after that capitulation (which has been oft repeated to others around Indiana), is asking them to commit political suicide. There are some outstanding heroes in the General Assembly. There are not 26 in the Senate nor 51 in the House. Not even close.

"New leadership" at IE? I'm on their mail list. I asked five times, since last summer, to help with issues and projects, via their website. Not so much as a peep back from them. Their recent "meeting" was not advertised. Probably a gathering of seven or eight at Ivy's. Hardly an "annual meeting."

Who was "invited" to this "meeting" ? Who "elected" whom?

It's incentous and now it's caused some damage. Ted isn't always right, and neither is Gary, nor me, for that matter, nor you.

But on this one, they both hit it out of the park.

There are some great people involved withi IE. I'm betting they have no idea what's really going on.

It's typical for a not-for-profit like this, to advertise its annual meeting, make a big to-do about it. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

They wanted to operate in the dark, to be able to manipulalte the outcome. And it isn't all volunteers--some of them are getting paid, as in the case of Mr. SJ.

Now our futures are on the line, and this damned Amendment will likely pass. It might have passed anyway--we'll never know. But if I am going to lose a noble cause, I want to go down fighting. And preaching the right sermon.

And not having a statewide organization that "speaks for us" giving legislators a pass on the single-most important issue our community has faced in decades.

Shame on them.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Jeff said, "Don't you think that St. John's conversations with Bauer had a little more political parlay to them?"

Not quite sure what you mean by this, Jeff, but I'll give it a try. So Bauer explains to St. John he's getting all this pressure from members of his caucus to give up the fight on SJR-7 and allow a vote on it so Eric Miller and Micah Clark can't use it to beat them over the head with the issue to the advantage of their Republican opponents. St. John says I understand, a Democratic majority is more important to us than this issue, our people will understand, and I'll provide cover for you. Well, that undercut the whole argument for having the House controlled by the Democrats--because it held out hope that an unnecessary, mean-spirited amendment would remain bottled up and not on the ballot for adoption in 2008. You saw the reaction in the community. It really let the wind out of the sails. Perhaps its impact cost Ed Mahern his re-election bid to Jon Elrod (I'm not complaining about that--as you know, I'm a big fan of Jon's). But for Mike Marshall pulling a rabbit out of a hat with all those absentee ballots in North Vernon, which defeated Billy Bright--Pat Bauer would have been stuck with a 50-50 split and Todd Rokita would have cast the deciding vote to elect Bosma as House Speaker. For those of you who don't know Mike Marshall, he is a former Democratic state representative who is openly gay. His efforts have been credited with the Democratic win over Bright. So what did such an assurance offer Bauer in the end? More importantly, how could someone who claims to represent GLBT interests possibly offer such an assurance? Now, if you think he got an assurance Bauer would alter the second paragraph, thereby starting the process all over again, I think that is even more of a quandry for Bauer because the Christian right believes they received an assurance from him that he would allow a vote on SJR-7 as proposed. Any alteration will be deemed a breach of their understanding of his assurance.

Anonymous said...

Continuing to participate in this thread is probably going to be like sticking my hand in a blender, but what the hell.

For Anonymous 5:00, let me remind you that you are anonymous and you are referencing the statement of another anonymous commenter (PhnxRsng366) as though his comment is verified fact. No dice.

Maybe I'm reading between the lines too much, but I keep getting the feeling that people think that somehow the GLBT community was single-handedly responsible for the takeover of the Indiana House by the Democrats, so we now expect our lobbyist to have power and control over them. I don't think Bauer sees it that way.

Does anyone really think St. John somehow can dictate to Bauer how this thing's gonnna do down? Please. Also, I don't recall anyone in a position of leadership in the GLBT community promising that the Dems getting the House would bottle up the amendment. What we did know, is that there was absolutely zilch chance of it not sailing through otherwise, so Dems in control was our best shot. Obviously there were no guarantees, as we have been made painfully aware.

Lastly, AI writes:

St. John says I understand, a Democratic majority is more important to us than this issue, our people will understand, and I'll provide cover for you.

You didn't put quotes around it, but it is written as a quoted statement. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it most certainly appears to be putting words in the man's mouth. This is unfair, and while I understand blogs are not held to the same journalistic standards is other media, your blog is better than this.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It's a fact, Jeff, that the last time Democrats controlled the House, Bauer refused to allow a vote on it. And nobody is suggesting St. John dictates anything to Bauer. I once heard Bauer dress down St. John in front of a crowded committee room for misinforming people about his position on a matter, and it was ugly. Is all that is being communicated is that Bauer gave a heads up about the problem within his caucus and that he was told that on behalf of IE that his position was understood and he would not be given any grief over it by IE. Sources confirm that St. John himself confirmed this took place. And let me add, IE's leadership is as culpable as St. John for the complicity. As for whether it has quotes around it, I think it's obvious it's for illustrative purposes and is not a direct quote.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous does not equal untrue, Jeff.

Because of the very sentiments expressed here, and feared elsewhere, some folks cannot use thier names.

Someday perhaps. But not now.

Use/lack of use of a poster's real name, does not, in and of itself, attribute truth or lie to the poster. As a matter of fac,t in the last year or so on blogs I've read, signing one's name is no more clue to a post's accuracy than Anonymous postings.

The accusations posted here, and the charges, about the GLBT community's voice at the Statehouse, are confirmed by multiple folks I know. I read all the posts, and haven't read anything that's untruthful yet.

Anonymous said...

Another remedy to this needs to be having the gay community speak up to their legislature with individual voices. No one would be able to assure lawmakers "this is what the gay community thinks" if they were getting feedback that told them otherwise.

Granted, we've been repeatedly told "don't worry; we're acting on your behalf, we'll take care of you." Whether this is true or not, this should be a giant wake-up call to everyone that they need to represent themselves.

There were probably 50 or so people at the hearing yesterday; that's really sad. We should have seen lots more than that. And from what I hear, the emails that went to legislators were in tiny numbers, too.

If there's tarring and feathering that needs to happen within our community, I don't know that this is the time.

Whether we win or lose SJR-7, we shouldn't be going down without a fight.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point, Steph.

IE did more to get out the word on this hearing than they ever did about their meetings or elections.

But a 9 a.m. Wednesday hearing, is just too difficult for many of us to make. I have written, called and visited my legislators (Orentlicher, Lubbers) about this issue. Theresa ended up looking disgusted and walked away. Someone needs to run against this woman. That district is more and more Democratic every year. She's overstayed her welcome, and altho I hate to condemn someone for their spouse's actions, she sleeps with the deveil himself. Mark is, well, evil.

I am going to urge David O. and other House members to have an evening hearing.

Nonetheless, whenever it's held, the Biblical goofs will be out in force. So what we need, in my opinion, is kind, gentle, real reminders that we: work, pay taxes, play golf, shop, play basketball, short, we're just like everyone else.

Oh yeah, And we vote. For people we like. And we hold legislators accountable. Unless someone has already sold out our entire community. That's kind of hard to overcome, dontcha think?

A co-opted voice is a less-effective one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Gary and those who have said kind words about us getting it right this time on the issue of who speaks for us.
To Jeff Newman and his ilk: I have lobbied at the Statehouse, but I didn't pretend to speak for you or anyone else --- just myself, which is as it should be.
Also, if you think you can do better owning a newspaper and making a profit at it, mine is for sale. Grab your chequebook and give me a call!

Anonymous said...

Cool, I have an ilk now. I've always wanted one of those.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Gary, you're the attorney not me, but don't you think 1:57 may be venturing into libel territory?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the morning laugh, Jeff.

Libel, indeed.


The guy who speaks for our community in front of the legislature was in charge of the fund when money disappeared. He travelled to exotic locations for "conferences" and spent lavishly on the organization's dime. He offered limp excuses about the disappearance of funds. He never ever apologized. A small amount of remorse might have been helpful, due to the damage that was caused.

The IE organization met recently and "elected" officers with no public notice. That organization pays the lobbyists, who apparently told the Speaker they "understood" if he wanted to call down the Amendment for a vote.

It's all embarrassing and sordid. We deserve better.

It's true, so it relieves the poster of any hint of libel accusations. The tenor may be a tad snotty for you, but if it's true, it ain't libel.

End of story.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Anon 1:57, you raise a number of valid concerns, a number of which have been documented here and elsewhere. Feel free to repost with specifics and without the name-calling, please. A couple of your links are broken.

Anonymous said...

That's kinda harsh, perdue...although the Pogo reference is cute. Walt Kelly is a legend.

Walt Kelly's strongest popularity came amidst Vietnam and Korea...when he harshly criticized the power structure in his comics. Genious. He was roundly condemned, and removed from many comics pages, and, if the papers kept him, moved to editorial pages.

The earlier posts' tough love may be cruel, but the truth was bound to come out. The entire foundation of our "presence" before lawmakers, is built on quicksand, by a few folks. Some of whom are no doubt trying to do the right thing.

This internal strife will not make one whit of difference in the vote. The door was left open by anyone who was representing us, who did not scream bloody murder when Bauer discussed allowing the vote. THAT, my dear perdue, is when the floodgates of protest should've opened up. But so few people knew about it, and it was difficult to raise a stink then.

All the rest is, in the words of a frequent blogger, kerfuffle.

Keep the faith, though. The House was, and is, the battleground. Getting exorcised about anything the Senate does is a waste of time. I'd have ignored the bastards altogether. Maybe a polite tidbit or two of testimony, and leave. If we get a dozen votes there we'll be lucky. A tough battle like this requires pacing yourself, which we're not good at doing. Patience.

Anonymous said...

I can see some valid reason for the criticism of excessive secrecy on the part of IE. On the other hand, I am not sure that anyone is ever going to be fully satisfied with any organization or group as to "who speaks for the broader community", be it the black community, Jewish Community, GLBT Community, etc. To paraphrase one commentor, if you don't think your voice is being heard, then yell your message directly. I would also suggest that Ted's newspaper might provide an ideal forum for determining what the broad spectrum of views really is. For example, what are really the different approaches to SJR7?
Finally, as to the Pat Bauer matter, I have no idea of who may have said what to who, and when. But I would offer this: many of us who are fighting SJR7 are also very serious critics of George Bush, "The Decider", and are alarmed at his unilateral tactics as being highly undemocratic. Yet we seem to think nothing about encouraging Pat Bauer to just sit on SJR7 and refuse to do anything with it. We can't do that and then argue elsewhere that there ought to be a full and fair debate. Hasn't the LGBT community had its own fill of seeing legislation favorable to it never seing the light of day because of similar tactics? Or is there a double standard?

Unknown said...

In response to the last poster, The Word will donate whatever space is requested and print all letters and comments from either/both sides on this issue in the March edition --- deadline Friday 16 Feb with e-mail letters to I feel it is important that everyone be heard, and also would welcome responses we thus far and not had from IE and others who feel they are targets of the original editorial and comments here. In any case, it's good to see the community actually looking at the issue of who does speak for us.