When a proposed amendment to the city's Human Rights Ordinance was introduced earlier this year in the Indianapolis Marion County City Council, it was expected to pass without much hoopla. However, when the religious right learned that provisions were added to provide discrimination protection for GLBT people, they went in to a last minute tizzy and bombarded the council with emails.
The not-so-internet savvy council was overwhelmed by the volume of email they received, and many did not realize that the majority of the emails were generated in spam-like fashion from a call to action by the religious right. Enough councilors changed their minds in the 11th hour to kill the measure, and some were even quoted as saying they were overwhelmed with "constituent emails" that clearly indicated opposition to the measure.
Only later did they learn that the majority of these emails originated from outside of Marion County.
Despite the fact that the council has learned it was snookered by this email assault, as plans are being made to re-introduce the amendment, the religious right is at it again. This time, the "call to action" has gone out nationally, with the American Family Institute issuing an email alert asking its lemmings to enter their email addresses into a webform and dutifully hit the submit (panic?) button.
But like the victim of any scam, the council is not falling for the same trick twice. As one councilor pointed out in an article in the Indy Star, the emails this time are not only from other parts of the state, but most are being sent from an out-of-state computer server. According to an IT specialist who has examined some of the emails, there appears to be a variety of subject lines, perhaps to fool both councilors and spam filters, but the body of most of the emails is exactly the same.
Meanwhile, as now wiser councilors are receiving this new electronic barrage from non-constituents, local GLBT residents have quietly been showing them the human side of a very real issue.
Councilors have met GLBT families, many who like so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet, who live in constant fear of being "outed" to their employers or their landlords and subsequently being fired or evicted with no other cause. If you don't think this can happen in today's presumably more tolerant world, you are wrong. It can and it does, and in Marion County it is perfectly legal.
They have read stories of discrimination that sound more like the 1950's than the new millennium. They have looked into the eyes of a child who worries aloud that something bad may happen to her dads.
They've listened and they've learned. Now it's time for the council to take this education to heart and do the right thing.