Tuesday, December 13, 2005

HRO Passed Out of Committee On Party Line Vote


The Rules and Public Policy Committee voted on party lines by a vote of 5-3 to send Proposal 622, the Human Rights Ordinance, to the full council. All Republican members of the committee, including Councilors Phil Borst, Bob Cochrum and Scott Schneider voted against the HRO, while Democrats Rozelle Boyd, Greg Bowes, Joanne Sanders, Steve Talley and Monroe Gray all voted in the affirmative. A vote by the full council is anticipated at a special meeting, which will take place next Monday, December 19, 2005. The police merger ordinance will be considered at the same time.

The Committee members heard more than 4 hours of testimony from dozens of members of the public, although those speaking in favor exceeded those speaking in opposition. Advance America’s Eric Miller, Indiana leading anti-gay bigot on the Christian right, brought in a group of students attending a local bible school to testify in opposition to the ordinance. Without those students, the opposition was pretty much left to be carried by a handful of black ministers, Dr. Vincent Alig, a discredited member of the psychiatric profession and father of the anti-gay bigoted Councilor Ginny Cain, and last but not least, the Grand Dragon of Moral Righteousness, Eric Miller.

The committee testimony laid out for the full public to see just how few rational arguments the opposition to Proposal 622 has for opposing discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender persons. Opponents relied on fear and prejudice in the absence of logic. And when that didn’t work, they argued that gays were better off financially than the rest of society, which is proof that they are not discriminated against, and that the ordinance is unnecessary. And when that didn’t work, they warned that adoption of the ordinance would pave the road for legalization of same sex marriages.

By contrast, supporters shared numerous stories of individual incidents of discrimination in the workplace, which flew in the face of arguments of the opposition that no discrimination exists. A respected member of the psychiatric profession, who is also a theologian, set the record clear that homosexuality has not been considered a mental disorder since the early 1970s after medical science proved otherwise. Apparently, Dr. Alig hasn’t opened his medical books in the last 50 years according to this expert.

The religious debate over the issue predominated testimony from both sides of the issue. The opposition was clearly perturbed by the informed and considered testimony of Dr. Edward Wheeler of the Theological Seminary of Indianapolis, who is also African American. He reminded the black ministers gathered to oppose the ordinance that Indianapolis has had less than a stellar history when it comes to civil rights. The takeover of state and city government by the KKK and the rampant discrimination within the Indianapolis police department as recent as within the last couple of decades were just two examples he cited. He argued that broad cultural acceptance is necessary to make Indianapolis a better community in which to live.

Councilors received letters from numerous businesses and business organizations who are supporting the HRO, including the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. Marion Co. GOP chairman Mike Murphy’s employer, Wellpoint, was one of many businesses expressing their support for Proposal 622. Apparently Wellpoint has not communicated their position to Mr. Murphy, who has used his political position to urge Republican councilors to vote in opposition to the HRO. And all Republican councilors on the committee dutifully abided by Murphy’s Law tonight.

As an indication of the growing rift within the Republican Party, extremist Republican Jim Bradford demanded that Republican HRO sponsor Scott Keller leave the Republican Party after he agreed to vote for the police merger ordinance, which failed a few weeks ago just by one vote, in what Bradford alleges was in exchange for Democrat Steve Talley’s support for the HRO.

Bradford told WTHR-TV, “I think Scott Keller and Steve Talley swapped votes to get what they wanted to get done, and it's absolutely wrong . . . There will be more times there's swapping votes and that's why I've asked Scott Keller to resign as a Republican and be the Democrat he is and get over it. I'm never going to be in the caucus with him ever again. I'm done with it.”

Keller and Talley both called Bradford’s charges ridiculous. As to switching parties, Keller said, “We've been Republicans since 1860 and we're staying that way.” Talley credits his change of heart to several small group meetings with gays and lesbians (that would be those organized by the IE Region 8 Steering Committee). “I always knew there was discrimination, but did not know it rose to the level where it ought to be written into law.”

Keller is being inundated with hate e-mails as a result of his decision to support the police merger ordinance. He told WRTV that for those sending him the really hateful e-mails, "He has a Smith and Wesson." There is a bit of irony in Keller being attacked as a Republican for supporting the police merger ordinance. It was, afterall, the Republicans who gave us the consolidated city-county government more than 30 years ago. Then-Mayor Richard Lugar tried unsuccessfully to merge the police departments at that time; he instead settled for what he could get. Keller is really just carrying through on Mayor Lugar's original vision of a streamlined, unified city-county government.

Councilor Scott Schnieder sought unsuccessfully tonight to table Proposal 622 based upon the argument that there are not 15 council members who will vote for its passage. At the current count, there are 13 councilors publicly supporting the HRO. There are, however, several other councilors leaning in favor of it. Only two more votes are needed for passage.

The Indianapolis Star reports that both Republican Lynn McWhirter and Democrat Ron Gibson are now leaning in favor of supporting the HRO. McWhirter told the Star: "[T]he Republican Party urged members to oppose the proposal in April but has backed away from that stance in light of similar bans included in the hiring policies of Gov. Mitch Daniels and Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. '(Party leaders) see it's moving forward, so they said everyone should vote their conscience this time.'"


Anonymous said...

Bradford is pathetic excuse for a City Councillor. I will do everything in my power to make sure that he will not be on the City Council again.

Michael M. said...

Bradford told WTHR-TV, “. . . I'm never going to be in the caucus with him ever again. I'm done with it.”

Is Bradford threatening to leave the caucus if Keller stays? That would be fine by me. He should hang it up.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that if Scott Schneider wants it to fail, and he said it didn't have the 15 votes to pass, so table it....then why wouldn't he let it go to the full council votes if (according to him) its destined to fail?

He is obviously worried about something for him to fight it tooth and nail every step of the way like he has.