Category Archives: Gay Rights

Brian Bosma’s Very Good Bill

As Indiana’s legislative session gets underway, there is (as usual) plenty to criticize. (Senate Bill 100 –which ThinkProgress has dubbed “The most anti-LGBT LGBT Rights Bill Ever”–probably tops the list. See their analysis of the bill or Doug Masson’s if you want to understand why), but it’s certainly not the only item on that list.

In the interests of balance, however, it’s worth noting that the news is not all negative.

Speaker Brian Bosma has introduced a really good bill, one that will actually support public education in Indiana. (Given the beating that public education has taken at the hands of Indiana’s Administration and legislature the past few years, this is a really positive change.)

The idea is to incentivize young people to go into education; the Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarship program promises to give Indiana’s top high school students an opportunity to earn a full scholarship to any accredited in-state school of education, so long as they spend five years teaching in an Indiana classroom after graduation.

The five-year commitment is based upon research suggesting that, after five years, a new teacher is “hooked”–likely to remain in the profession for the long haul.

Although it is very early in the process, the indications are that the bill–or at least the general approach–enjoys widespread, bipartisan support.

Wouldn’t it be great if the upcoming session of the General Assembly turned out to be one in which Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked together on this and other measures to address the actual problems Indiana faces, rather than yet another iteration of the culture wars that have dominated past sessions? (Just the thought makes me tingly all over…)

Good for you, Speaker Bosma!

Now, can you bury S.B. 100? Somewhere deep?

And the Hospitality Continues…

In the wake of Governor Pence’s announcement that he didn’t want any of those shifty Syrians relocating here in Indiana, a friend sent me this article about former Governor Mitch Daniels talking fondly about his Syrian heritage…Worth a read.

Of course, it isn’t just Syrian refugees who aren’t getting a “welcome” sign from our unctuous Governor.

Yesterday was Organization Day at the Indiana Statehouse, and both proponents and opponents of adding LGBT Hoosiers  to the list of those protected under the state’s civil rights law showed up to make their voices heard.

There are a couple of things we can be sure of. 1) It will be a contentious session. And 2) Mike Pence will continue to oppose legal equality while insisting that he doesn’t condone discrimination, that he’s not anti-gay, he’s just all about religious liberty.

In anticipation of the Governor’s protestations, the Indiana Democratic Party has compiled and distributed this history of his efforts to marginalize the gay community just since  2000.

2000: During his congressional campaign, Mike Pence said, “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.”

2000: Pence also supported the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only if federal dollars were excluded from organizations who “celebrate” and “encourage” behavior that facilitates spreading of the HIV virus. Further, Pence supported this reauthorization only if “those institutions provided assistance to those looking to change their sexual behavior”, an off-the-cuff endorsement for ex-gay conversion therapy.

2004: Mike Pence co-sponsored a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

2007: Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

2010: Mike Pence voted against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal which allowed LGBT Americans to openly serve their country in military service.

2012: Pence refused to say on the record if he supported a same-sex couple raising a child together.

2014: Gov. Pence supported HJR-3, a bill to add an amendment banning same-sex marriage to Indiana’s Constitution.

2015: Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a closed-door ceremony.

2015: Governor Pence said on ABC’s “This Week” that it was “absolutely not” a mistake to sign RFRA, throwing Indiana into a $250 million economic panic and putting Indiana’s “Hoosier Hospitality” reputation in jeopardy.

2015: Even after his approval rating plummets from RFRA, Mike Pence on July 22 told the media he is “studying” the issue of LGBT rights and whether or not he’d support across the board protections for the LGBT community.

Gee, if that’s the way Pence acts when he doesn’t support legalized bias, what measures would the Governor support if he did support discrimination? Exile? Chemical castration?

It promises to be a very interesting session…

I Don’t Think You Understand How This Works….

Okay…I wasn’t going to weigh in on the ridiculous clerk who has been refusing to comply with the law and numerous court decisions requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but these paragraphs in a recent story got me:

Davis, an elected official and Democrat, has argued that she should be exempt from following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges because she objects to same-sex marriage for religious beliefs.

She had asked the judge to delay his ruling until the Kentucky state legislature, which won’t be in session again until January, can pass legislation that would exempt her and other clerks who don’t wish to follow the law.

Does this woman really believe that the state legislature can pass a bill that–in effect–overrules the U.S. Constitution?

It’s depressing enough when ordinary citizens don’t understand the most basic structure of American government, but how in the world does someone who has spent decades working in a government office remain so appallingly ignorant of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause, and the operation of the First Amendment?

It’s hard to escape the suspicion that this is intentional ignorance, grandstanding–that no one is really that stupid.

It’s bad enough that she seems embarrassingly ignorant of the nature of religious liberty. As many observers have pointed out, she is entitled to believe anything she wants, but she is not entitled to a government job or paycheck. If her beliefs prevent her from doing what the job requires, she needs to quit.

If I told the University that my religious beliefs “exempted” me from having to teach certain students, believe me, I wouldn’t be on the faculty very long!

A Facebook friend put it this way: if a Quaker public official refused to issue a gun permit, citing “sincerely held” pacifist religious beliefs, would Davis’ “religious liberty” defenders insist that those sincerely held religious beliefs should be accommodated? Or are her defenders more likely to be a bit selective about their demands for accommodation?

It is difficult to identify the most offensive element of this sordid effort to blame discrimination against LGBT folks on God, but I think the winner may be a statement issued yesterday by Davis’ attorney, Matt Staver of the Liberty Counsel. Stare had the chutzpah (google it) to compare Davis to the Jews under the Nazis.

According to Staver, sanctioning a government employee for refusal do the job she is being paid to do is just like sending millions of people to the gas chambers.

I want to pity these people. I really do. But they seem so unworthy of human compassion.



Mike, Mike, Mike…

I am all for transparency in government–but that’s not the same thing as transparent bull—-.

In yesterday morning’s Star, we learned that the state had “abruptly” terminated its costly contract with a national PR firm–a contract necessitated by the disastrous publicity generated by Indiana’s passage of RFRA.

Thursday afternoon, Chris Cotterill, executive vice president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., cited strong employment numbers, national recognition for the state’s business-friendly climate and cost management efforts in the decision to cancel the contract with Porter Novelli.

Gov. Mike Pence said through a spokeswoman he supports the decision.

“Given the record-setting pace of job creation by businesses across Indiana, Governor Pence supports the decision by the IEDC to conclude the contract with Porter Novelli and continue current efforts to promote the advantages of doing business and creating jobs in our state,” said press secretary Kara Brooks.

And I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

That “national recognition” of Indiana’s “business friendly” climate evidently is a citation to one of those notoriously unreliable magazine lists (the ten best places to retire! the 25 best cities for people with allergies!). And Indiana’s method of calculating its job-creation numbers has been the subject of criticism for years.

It’s fairly obvious why the Governor terminated the contract: he’s running for re-election, and the fact of that contract, its cost, and the administrative decisions that necessitated it have been subject to significant ongoing criticism. So…Voila! Suddenly, Indiana’s RFRA troubles are all behind us.

But they aren’t.

In San Francisco last week, tourist areas were dotted with Air BnB advertising signs saying “Dear Guests from Indiana, Just know you are always welcome here. (We’ll even share our pizza).” Teeshirts at New York pride celebrations proclaimed “Too gay for Indiana.” And sober Hoosier business executives share the conviction that the damage done by RFRA remains deep–that (as Arizona learned a few years ago) the attendant publicity conveyed an unfortunate message about the state’s civic climate that remains a substantial drag on tourism, business relocation decisions and convention business–a message that will not soon be eradicated.

If the Governor really wanted to improve the state’s image without spending money on a PR campaign, it would be simple enough to do: he could take a high-profile position in favor of amending Indiana’s civil rights laws to include protection from discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

If anyone thinks our culture-warrior Governor is likely to do that, I still have that swampland in Florida….

An Unexpected Reaction

I had very little doubt that the Court would rule in favor of marriage equality; I was more nervous about the politics of the Obamacare ruling. (I say the politics, because the legal case was so flimsy a non-political court would never have accepted the case).

Every constitutional scholar who had weighed in on the marriage case anticipated yesterday’s result. It wasn’t just compelled by (recent) precedents, but by those “facts on the ground” that even isolated Justices cannot avoid taking into account–with 70% of Americans living in states with marriage equality, a contrary ruling would have invited chaos.

And yet I really wasn’t prepared for the emotions I felt as I read Facebook posts and emails from so many friends and relatives, listened to the powerful speech by President Obama, saw major companies add rainbows to their ads …and just let it sink in. Like many others, I teared up a lot.

I probably can’t fully understand the emotions of my LGBT friends and family members, although I share their elation. But what I really don’t understand are the mean-spirited, vicious homophobes who went crazy (okay, crazier) when the decision was handed down.

I understand principled disagreement. I understand (okay, maybe not) adherence to rigid religious beliefs that label other people (it’s always other people) sinners. But the venom, the threats of civil disobedience, the seething hatred….the Bobby Jindals, the Mike Huckabees, the “Christian” pastors refusing to obey the rule of law, all spewing raw animus–that, I find incomprehensible.

There are lots of ways to “slice and dice” humanity. I would suggest that the last couple of weeks have shown us two very basic kinds of people: those who hate and those who don’t. Those who gun down innocent people in a church because their skin is a different color (and those who support them by setting fire to other black churches, by donating via kickstarter to their legal defense, or defiantly waving their own Confederate flags)–and decent human beings who are able to see themselves as part of a wider community that includes the “other.”

I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I say that America is engaged right now in an existential conflict between those decent human beings and the small-minded, self-serving and morally deformed forces waging an increasingly frantic war on the poor, on women, on African-Americans, on gays…on all of us who refuse to recognize their right to continued privilege.

Yesterday was a glorious repudiation of those people. But we still have a lot of work to do.