Indiana's only statewide LGBT advocacy organization, Indiana Equality, has filed for bankruptcy. The organization has been plagued for years with a poor reputation for financial mismanagement and inefficiency. Last year it was also discovered that longtime treasurer Dan Funk had stolen funds from the organization.
Robin Lange, Communications Chair for the organization, announced the decision last week on the same day North Carolina voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. Indiana will face a similar charge for an amendment in this year's legislative session; if approved the matter will head to voters for ratification.
"On April 14, 2012, the Boards of Indiana Equality and Indiana Equality Action met to consider options for grounding the organizations in the best possible financial position to win against HJR-6 and to create a more inclusive Indiana," Lange said. "Unanimously and as a result of thorough deliberation, the Boards voted to reorganize both IE and IEA under the terms of bankruptcy."
"The decision to reorganize under bankruptcy was not made lightly, as one can certainly imagine. Our all-volunteer organization has been operating under a very lean, shoestring budget to strengthen our grassroots efforts and collaboration across the state, which makes this decision additionally painful," Lange continued.
"But we must be honest, as our new leadership demands. IE/IEA have had a person in a position of trust in the near past who has not been faithful to what many would consider good fiduciary responsibilities. We have lost money, and are actively pursuing resolutions to the issues surrounding that situation."Bilerico's Bil Browning blamed much of the organization's current problems on its lobbyist, Mark St. John, who was also at the helm of Indiana Cares, a nonprofit that managed federal grant money for persons suffering from HIV/AIDS, when it went bankrupt several years ago. Browning said Funk repaid the money he stole from the organization, but he says St. John has been threatening legal action against the organization to recover money he claims it owes him for his lobbying services. Funk and St. John are no longer associated with the organization according to Browning. The report does not indicate whether Funk will be criminally prosecuted for stealing funds from the organization.
The organization's primary efforts in recent years have been devoted to fighting a constitutional amendment, HJR-6, that would bar same-sex marriages or the legal recognition of similar rights for same-sex couples. Indiana law has expressly barred same-sex marriages since 1995. If the legislature approves the proposed amendment next year, it will appear on the Indiana ballot in 2014 for approval by the state's voters.