Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Indianapolis Passes Historic Gay Rights Ordinance

GLBT Community Deals Major Blow To Bigoted Christian Right Efforts
In a historic advancement for civil rights in Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, the Indianapolis City-County Council, in front of a jammed-packed, standing room only audience voted by a one vote margin tonight, 15-14, to approve Proposal 622, the Human Rights Ordinance, reversing the 11-18 defeat of the same proposal last April. Two brave Republicans, Scott Keller and Lance Langsford, joined 13 Democrat councilors in providing the needed votes to pass the landmark gay rights ordinance. Three Democrats who voted against the measure in April, Patrice Abdullah, Ron Gibson and Steve Talley, switched their positions to pave the way for the HRO’s passage. Two Democrats, Sherron Franklin and Mary Moriarty Adams, voted no as they did the last time.

The HRO, as approved, adds both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as protected classes from discrimination in employment and housing in Indianapolis. The law provides penalties for violations, including redress for the victimes of such discrimination. Businesses which discriminate against persons becaues of their sexual orientation or gender identity will also be prohibited from doing business with city-county governments in Marion Co.

The Christian right, led by Advance America’s Eric Miller, the American Family Association’s Micah Clark and the Indiana Family Institute’s Curt Smith, poured all of their resources into a last ditch effort to derail the HRO, but in the end, the simple desire to provide “equal justice for all” won the day. A dejected Miller and Smith left tonight’s council meeting, with their white hoods and sheets in hand, in disbelief that their campaign of hate and bigotry had failed to prevail as it had before. The outspoken Clark, figuring defeat was already in the offing, didn’t even bother to show for the meeting.

The HRO vote, along with a vote to approve Mayor Peterson’s plan to merge the Indianapolis Police Department and Sheriff’s Department, left the Republican caucus in shambles. All Republican council members voted in lockstep against the HRO and police merger ordinances, except for Keller and Langsford, to the disappointment of the business community and many leading Republicans in the community who favored both ordinances as needed steps for Indianapolis' future.

To the disappointment of many moderate Republicans, Lynn McWhirter brushed aside encouragement from Gov. Daniels and other Republican leaders to support the HRO, instead joining hands with the anti-gay bigoted right. McWhirter had told HRO supporters in recent days that she intended to vote for the measure. Another Republican Councilor turned her back on a gay nephew who pleaded with her to support the HRO, while other Republicans ignored the pleas of business leaders. Instead, they chose to abide by Murphy’s Law, dubbed for the anti-gay GOP Chairman, Mike Murphy, who first proposed that all Republican councilors vote against the gay civil rights measure so that the GOP could use it as a divisive wedge issue in the next city elections.

Many in the audience sat in disbelief as Councilor McWhirter unsuccessfully offered a “tongue and cheek” amendment to add “obesity” to the list of protected classes protected by the proposed HRO, knowing that she had already told HRO supporters that she intended to vote against it because that was the prevailing view of her constituents. Her actions tonight are, in particular, an embarrassment to Gov. Daniels, who took the time to encourage her support of the HRO, only to have her throw sand in his face.

At the conclusion of the vote on the police merger, a few police officers in attendance acted unruly as they left the room, and anti-gay bigoted, Councilor Jim Bradford interrupted Councilor Scott Keller with rude comments as he explained his support for the police merger ordinance. The Star reported that Bradford stormed out after the votes. He has accused Keller of trading his vote for the police merger in exchange for Democrat support for the HRO. Bradford last week asked Keller to leave the GOP and indicated that he did not want to attend any further Republican caucus meetings at which Keller was present.

Democrat Patrice Abdullah bowed to the pressure of his gay constituents and laid aside his fundamentalist Islamic objections to homosexuality in switching his vote in favor of the HRO. Abdullah told the Star that he wanted to “reflect the will of his Downtown district." Democrat Ron Gibson switched his vote, according to the Star, because he became convinced that the “vote was about discrimination.” Gibson, like Abdullah, had previously cited his religous beliefs as the reason for opposing the HRO.

Tonight’s victories on the HRO and the police merger bolster the standings of Mayor Bart Peterson (D) and city-county councilor president, Steve Talley, both of whom come out big winners. Both appeared weak when the proposals lost on earlier votes this year. Tonight’s votes are truly a reversal of fortunes for the two. Republican Leader Phil Borst and GOP chairman Mike Murphy are both big losers, having alienated a large bloc of Marion Co. voters at the same time they firmly established themselves as road-blocks to the future progress of the city.

Tonight’s victories have established new-found power and influence for Indianapolis’ GLBT community. The Region 8 Indiana Equality Steering Committee, led by Bil Browning and comprised of more than a dozen area GLBT and GLBT-supportive organizations, pulled together to wage an unprecedented grassroots campaign for the gay civil rights cause. Linda Purdue, a member of the Indianapolis Equal Opportunity Advisory Board, in particular, has labored harder and longer than anyone to make the passage of the HRO a reality. Scott Keller and Jackie Nytes, as the lead sponsors, never waivered from their efforts to pass the HRO and deserve enormous gratitude from the GLBT community.

There are far too many people and organizations to thank for tonight’s victory. But it demonstrates the power of speaking up and taking part in the political process. Too often, the GLBT community has sat on the sidelines as they have been pilloried by the Christian right, but not this time. We took on the Christian right in hand-to-hand combat and prevailed, not only in the minds of 15 councilors but in the minds of a vast majority of residents living in Indianapolis.


Anonymous said...

It was a beautiful thing to see!

Marti said...

It's an awesome victory for the community. It definitely SHOULDN'T have been this hard though.

Congrats to Bil and Linda and all those who made it happen.

Gary R. Welsh said...

GLBT blog sites are spreading the good news from Indy across the country. Pam Spaulding, who's Pam's House Blend was just voted the #1 GLBT blog site, has a great posting hailing the news at http://www.pamspaulding.com/weblog/. Also, www.pageoneq.com has headline coverage on the news as well.

A+ Certified IT professional said...

The law is a joke, it is ment to appease the GLBT community into quieting down.

I have put the law to its test and it failed miserably. With witness's to a grave injustice against a transgender employee. No investiation was completed.

Insted refusal to file the complaint, waisted time and then a refusal to persue a complaint claiming the complaint was not recieved in time, even though it was and timed stamped material proved it was.

The HRO law is not being upheld.

The GLBT community is just as much outcasted today as we were 20 to 30 years ago.