Chris Douglas

On Bayh, Lugar, and the FMA

Filed By Chris Douglas | May 23, 2006 4:24 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
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I think its important that Senator Evan Bayh has met with bloggers (Bilerico, Advance Indiana, et al.) The meeting was a great idea, and I hope that more such meetings occur with other candidates and office holders. Lots of considered opinions and interpretations to emerge from so many different perspectives gives everyone plenty to chew on.

I have my own thoughts on what we've heard from Senator Bayh, whose position against the FMA should be adjusted. I hope his staff thinks carefully and reconsiders his position.

The position is best understood in relationship to Senator Lugar's position, which has been widely and often incorrectly interpreted, in spite of the fact that he set it all out in detail. Lobbyists who

worked both Senator's offices reported that Lugar had no fear of the Amendment going to vote on the floor because he was perfectly comfortable voting against it, and he expected it to lose. But the difference between the two as to why they will vote against it can be summed up (or paraphrased) in this way: Senator Bayh is saying that constitutionally the decision should be left to the State, which would seem to express a comfort with a state acting as it may wish with its own Constitution; his position is of no help to us at all. Senator Lugar, on the other hand, has expressed concerns about amending the Federal Constitution in a sloppy and haphazard way in response to a drummed up crisis. Lugar's reservations about the FMA apply just as much to amending the Constitution at a local level.

To put it differently, Evan Bayh will vote against the Federal Amendment to the Constitution when it reaches the floor because he thinks it should be left to the states. Could a person with that position also support an Amendment at the state level banning marriage and its incidents, perhaps even civil union? Easily, so he can retain the confidence of conservatives. Senator Lugar (I predict) will vote against the Federal Amendment to the Constitution when it reaches the floor because he has written (I paraphrase) that he thinks its sloppy, polarizing, fears it was drummed up in a false sense of crisis, shows no sense of compromise, and could have far more dramatic impact on such things as civil union, tax, property, and insurance benefits than had been considered. Would a person with such a position turn around and support the same Amendment at the state level that is sloppy, polarizing, drummed up in a false sense of crisis, shows no sense of compromise, and has far more dramatic impact on such thing as civil union, tax, property, and insurance benefits than had been considered? Not very easily.

Times have changed. The Defense of Marriage Act passed in the 90's under right-wing Republican pressure (and signed into law by a Democratic President and Governor) was a freight train that travelled through nearly 10 years ago. Lugar has been in office forever, and has plenty of votes on these topics with which I disagree. No doubt a substantial case can be built against him. But in observing my parents, who are close to his age, I think he is no less capable than they of thoughtful reflection and evolving thought. In his position on the FMA he has revealed no willingness to pander to the religious right and pretend to them a philosophical agreement with a broad amendment either at the Federal or State level where in fact he seems to have little such agreement.

Senator Lugar's position reveals one who in dealing with an inflammatory topic is sensitive to the importance of his words on this topic to gays and lesbians in Indiana and nationally. Evan Bayh, on the other hand, in saying it should be left to the states, has provided no hint of philosophical qualm with a broad state constitutional amendment.


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Jerame Davis | May 23, 2006 5:46 PM

Chris,

It's too bad you weren't there at the meeting. I think this is an insightful look at the differences between the two. One would think Lugar would be the first to jump at the "states rights" argument before Bayh as this is what the moderate Republicans do for cover on this issue.

Still, I think the whole of our Senate delegation needs to rethink on this issue. Lugar has been and continues to be reasonably sane on LGBT issues. Bayh has taken a wobbly stance that doesn't give him much room to breathe.

By making it a "states rights" issue, he's giving his home state a pass to enact the marriage amendment running through our General Assembly like last night's tamales.

That's exactly why it is important to get him on record regarding the Indiana amendment...As a citizen and a former governor of this state, he should have an opinion on what's going on here.

Chris--you have me really confused now. You want us to believe that Sen. Lugar has a better record on GLBT issues than Bayh? You need to check out the comparison I did last year of their voting records. You seek to judge Bayh on an issue over which he has no direct control, while giving credit to Lugar where none has yet been earned. I choose to judge the two by the votes and public positions they've taken. Lugar has never publicly declared his opposition to FMA--I checked with HRC on this point last week and he was not marked as committed either way. Lugar did vote for cloture on FMA last year while Bayh voted against it. Bayh's side prevailed and FMA died last year. Lugar's vote won him praise from Eric Miller and Advance America--they like each other so well Sen. Lugar sings praises for Eric over at his website--go check it out. Maybe Lugar will come around--but he waited until after he dodged a potential primary from a right-winger by casting a vote they wouldn't like in what will in all likelihood be his last run for public office--real courage there. On the critical issue of gay civil rights, Sen. Lugar is on record consistently opposing ENDA, which has been floating around the Senate most of his 30-year career. Bayh, on the other hand, supports ENDA. Bayh has really only supported the GLBT community on one issue--hate crimes reporting and enhancement.And Bayh's father Birch, supported gay civil rights back in the 1970s as a Senator from Indiana!

You all make such a big deal out of Bayh's refusal to take a position on SJR-7, but I guarantee you aren't going to see Lugar taking a position on it this year either. After all, his good buddy Eric Miller wrote it and we know how well he likes him--again--go over to Advance America's website and listen to Lugar sing praises for Eric Miller.

It is a real disservice to Indiana's GLBT community for anyone to misrepresent what our public officials' public stances are on issues of concern.

In the second to last sentence of the first paragraph that should read "Lugar (not Bayh) has only really supported the GLBT community on one issue--hate crimes reporting and enhancement."

Chris Douglas | May 23, 2006 7:40 PM

Gary, I confined my comments to their treatment of the marriage issue.

What I'm urging is Senator Bayh's reformulate his position so that it castes all these marriage amendments in a negative light, expressing reservations that are not limited to a states rights perspective. I'm not taking an electoral position on the two.

I stand by my observation that Lugar's position on this issue is more helpful to us than Bayh's. That means Bayh should update his position.

Affectionately, I chuckle to note your calling me to task for noting that Lugar has a better position on the amendment than Bayh, offering no endorsement, while you have provided the service for visitors to your website to download from your website a Lugar 2006 fuel freedom campaign sticker. (I say that, while also noting that I am admirer of your work and your site, and not taking seriously the idea that you are intending to promoting Sen. Lugar's campaign. I know you are not.)

Disappointed bilerico reader | May 23, 2006 9:56 PM

This post is ridiculous. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what I have seen of both Lugar and Bayh. They never pit themselves against each other like this. If you're such a Lugar supporter, maybe you should follow his lead and not turn issues into Lugar vs. Bayh. The last poll I saw showed Bayh with higher approvals in Indiana than Lugar, so I doubt Lugar wants to go there in an election year - and I'm sure he doesn't want his "supporters" doing it for him. I can't wait til his staff sees this post!

Your post also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of their records. It is simply ridiculous to say Lugar is, in ANY way, better on GLBT issues than Bayh.

Bayh's score on the HRC Scorecard in 2002 was 100%. Lugar's was 14%

Bayh's score on the HRC Scorecard in 2004 was 75%. Lugar's was 13%.

Here is the link to the scorecards:

http://www.hrc.org/Content/ContentGroups/Library/Published_in_2000_2002/Congressional_Scorecard.htm

Chris: Are you so arrogant to believe you have better judgment than the leading GLBT national lobbying organization?

The two U.S. Senators from Indiana clearly have respect for each other, and I think both would be very disappointed in anyone pitting them against each other like this! Shame on you for posting such silly post that does no good for either Senator and is terribly misleading! This type of partisanship will doom the causes you claim to support.

Chris--affectionately, Lugar and I are in 100% agreement on the need to expand ethanol's use as a fuel alternative. Coming from a 5th generation farm family, that's an easy call for me. I thought it was a clever campaign idea. Given that the Democrats don't plan to run anyone against him anyway, it's not like there's a real choice this year, which begs the question even more--what political risk is there to Lugar in doing more?

Regarding Evan Bayh, let's face it: we have a presidential contender, not a senator. His votes, his speeches, his comments, everything down to his goddamned hair will be filtered through this and designed not to alienate voters.

Same-sex marriage? It's a states issue. Translation: to the GLBT community, "hey, I'm voting against the FMA." To the religious right, "don't worry, 100% of the states who had ballot initiatives passed, so I won't take a position to hurt you there."

War in Iraq? Intelligence failures. Translation: to the few Bushies who are left I won't slam your man and his cronies; we'll take it out on nameless faceless CIA baddies.

And on and on...

I understand and agree with your frustrations, Jeff. And to John who posted a great article about Russ Feingold and the Wisconsin amendment -- way to go..

But let's face it, Indiana is NOT Wisconsin with its more liberal traditions. Also, there is no marriage discrimination amendment on the Indiana ballot yet-- so the political-- and yes, less-principled-- position is that it's up to the state. And only those in the political wonk-land-- like us-- know that the greater good would be the Dems taking the Indiana House -- and changing this thing to take it out of the 2008 cycle.

How would Bayh stating that make a difference? Hm... would it make it easier to elect Dems across the state? I doubt that.

Would it hurt him in Indiana? Yeah, his polls would probably go down.

Would he win more points across the country? They don't care about internal Indiana politics.

Would he come out to us-- LGBT voting block-- as more principled? Yeah...but he's done what he thinks he can politically.

To fault a politician for being politically-savvy is like calling a professor overly studious... what do you expect?

Straight-Shooting Democrat | May 24, 2006 9:19 AM

I noticed that Senator Bayh was a congressional co-host of the Stonewall Democrats' national fundraiser in D.C.

http://www.stonewalldemocrats.org/champions/

Has Lugar supported the Log Cabin Republicans?

Have either of them supported any LGBT initiative or organization or event in Indiana?

Chris Douglas | May 24, 2006 9:58 AM

Heavens to Betsy, folks, we have achieved progress ONLY by needling politicians on both sides of the aisle to take ever more forward positions,rethink backward and inadequate positions, and not allow them to become comfortable. Criticism of Lugar for past votes is warranted. Pressure on him to improve is warranted. Unless we think we can replace either one, or would be well-served to, it is appropriate to press both for improvement. Allowing either to rest comfortably is inappropriate, unless our interests are purely partisan.

One of the ways that we press politicians forward is by encouraging competition in policy progress. In the many instances in which Lugar is short of Bayh's position, then it is appropriate to press Lugar. Where Bayh is short of Lugar's position, then it is appropriate to press Bayh.

It just so happens that we are faced with a constituional amendment at the state level which will set us back for generations if it succeeds, so it's an important topic, perhaps the most critical we face today. It is not at all inappropriate to suggest that Senator Bayh adopt language that castes doubts on the wisdom of broad constitutional amendments, which wisdom can be as applicable in our state contest as it is in the federal contest. Where can he look for such language? To Lugar's statement.

Should Lugar be pressed to comment on this matter as it relates to Indiana? Yes.
Is Lugar better than Bayh on other GLBT issues? No. Should Bayh be left alone on the topic of same sex marriage because he is better than Lugar on other topics? In my opinion, no.

Chris Douglas | May 24, 2006 10:18 AM

(By the way, disappointed, it was HRC's representative who observed after meeting with the Senate offices that HRC was comfortable that Lugar's vote on the floor would be against the amendment. My confidence in Lugar's ultimate vote againt the amendment when it reaches the floor has come from what HRC's representative learned from his office. He has never feared the vote reaching the floor of the senate because he has made his problems with it clear and he made clear to HRC representatives that he would be a vote against it when it reached the floor, where he was confident it would be defeated. The lobbyists I referred to were HRC lobbyists. And I wouldn't discourage you, incidentally, from posting your actual name and affiliation.)

Linda Perdue | May 24, 2006 12:06 PM

I would point readers of this blog to stonewalldems.org/champions. There you will handily see that Senator Bayh was on the congressional host committee for National Stonewall Democrats on March 9, 2006, at Stonewall's Capital Champions event. Capital Champions honors congressional representatives who have stood with this community against Republican attacks. I would suggest that this is, for our junior Senator, a quite supportive stand to take. I would like to know Senator Lugar's relationship with Log Cabin Republicans!

I asked Senator Bayh how he would vote when the FMA comes up. He answered that he would vote against it. I would suggest that people who weren't present at that luncheon not try to construe something else out of the comment.

Chris--I asked Stuart Rothenberg from HRC about Lugar's position when he was in town just last week. He said HRC did not have a firm commitment from Lugar, but they were hopeful. Incidentally, when I e-mailed Lugar's office several months back about the hate crimes bill, his office very quickly responded with an e-mail expressing his support for the legislation. I have e-mailed Lugar's office a couple of times on FMA, and I've heard nothing. Perhaps his vote will depend on whether the deadline has past for the Democrats to put someone on the ballot to run against him at the time of the FMA vote.

Chris Douglas | May 24, 2006 1:18 PM

I want to be clear: I expect that Senator Bayh will vote against the FMA. I don't mean to imply otherwise. I also expect that Senator Lugar will vote against the FMA. The proof of the pudding will be when the FMA actually goes to a vote.

But I would urge Senator Bayh, in seeking cover, to seek the cover of Senator Lugar's language that castes the amendment effort as ill-considered, rather than Dick Cheney's language that castes the matter as a states-rights issue.

I base my understanding on the reports of the bloggers who have posted here and elsewhere, and welcome any that might clarify differently.

Incidentally, I have as much problem with John McCain's language on this, who is a Republican, and who has backed his state's marriage amendment, which Lugar has not. I would rather McCain used Lugar's language, too, for I find McCain's position objectionable.

Well Chris--Sen. Lugar must be communicating two different messages-one to Eric Miller, who thinks he's for it, and one to GLBT people who he only meets in secret with so Eric Miller won't find out.

Chris Douglas | May 24, 2006 7:03 PM

Gary, in my opinion, Miller is spinning Lugar's vote on cloture in a manner so as to back up Miller's position. Miller will soon enough, I expect, find himself explaining why Lugar voted against the amendment when it came to the floor. Or it ignoring it completely.

I expect that we will see Clark, Miller, et al underplay Lugar's ultimate vote against them on the Amendment, because it is telling their constituency that Lugar, who represents Mom and Apple Pie, disagrees with them. They will not do that. So instead, they underplay to their own constituency the fact that Lugar has stated clearly a list of reservations about the Amendment.

To illustrate the tactic, it's like the religious right citing Lincoln's use of biblical verse to claim that he was a deeply religious Christian. He was not, but it bolsters their case to claim he was, and any information to the contrary is awkward to those who are trying to argue that we are entirely a Christian nation, rather than a nation of diverse religious views.

Marla R. Stevens | June 20, 2006 12:24 AM

Back to the basic issue, I'm with Jeramy on this one: the thing wasn't going to pass so I'd rather have Lugar's superior reasoning prevail over Bayh's short-sighted, dead-chicken-in-the-middle-of-the-road convenient one.

Bayh's purpose was to get y'all to write nice things about him in your blogs that he could use to persuade gullible queers too lazy to really look at his sorry history on gay issues that he's not the at-best fair weather friend he is (and I do mean at-best, knowing from long experience how far an over-reached gift that is to the man.)

Notice I haven't said a darned thing about Lugar's voting record here. Everyone with any sense knows I know it's awful.