The Hate Crime Bill of 2000, Sexual Orientation, Garton, & Gender Identity
Seldom can the content of private meetings be revealed without damaging the trust of the participants and the future ability to cooperate effectively. I've heard much criticism in the gay community of rumored "secret meetings", as though quiet negotiations and understandings accomplish nothing. We are in an unusual situation, in which a case study can be discussed without compromising trust or threatening the future. Senator Garton, one whose cooperation and leadership (quiet and behind the scenes) was exerted on hour behalf, was one whose trust had to be protected.
Below is more detail about one situation, and Garton's involvement, than most would want. Only wonks may find it interesting.
In 2000 the House under Democratic leadership introduced a Hate Crimes Bill without sexual orientation included. The back-channel message to gay activists was that the House plan was for the Bill to pass the house with an expectation that it would not get heard in the Republican Senate. The Senate's refusal to hear a hate crime bill could then serve as campaign issue against Republicans. The reason it was necessary to leave out sexual orientation (as conveyed to activists) was that there were Democrats in the House from southern districts that could not vote for any bill that had sexual orientation in it, for it would open them up to attack in their conservative districts. They were also convinced that the Republican Senate would never hear a bill with sexual orientation in it.
To repeat the message conveyed to gay activists at the time, the expectation of the sponsors of the bill was that it would never pass and that the gay community was to be excluded.
The gay community mobilized admirably. In the view of the board of Justice, Inc., the exclusion of sexual orientation from the hate crime bill was an impermissable affront to the gay community, and a dangerous statement. Justice, Inc. under the leadership of Wally Paynter and advised by Kathy Sarris and employed me and Marla Stevens to work the issue, specifically to ensure that no exclusionary bill would be passed. We coordinated with the editorial board of the star to produce an editorial condemning the exclusionary bill on the very first day of the session. We also coordinated with HRC and Jesus MCC to produce a press conference and worked with both organizations to line up constituent meetings with legislators and victims of hate crime to testify. The community performed. House Leadership announced that the offensive bill would be sent to sub committee, and a message was given to gay activists that the intent was to kill the offensive bill.
As a result of the terrifying testimony of hate crime victims, however, an unusual bi-partisan consensus formed in the House Judiciary committee that something should be done, and a group of House Republicans signalled that they would support a bill with Sexual orientation in it. The Board of Justice, Inc. then decided that the death of the offensive bill should no longer be considered adequate and directed Marla Stevens and me to a new task: pass a bill that would establish the precedent of including sexual orientation. "Sexual orientation" while appearing in Fortune 500 nondiscrimination codes, had never made an appearance in official state policy or law. Indeed, politicians at that time were preferring to use the phrase "preference", if willing to discuss us at all.
But the conventional wisdom held that the Republican Senate would never hear a bill including sexual orientation. Before the bill in the house could proceed from committee, we had to know: would the inclusion of sexual orientation in the bill kill it? would Richard Bray hear a bill in the Senate Judiciary committee with sexual orientation? was the senate willing to pass a piece of legislation including sexual orientation?
MEETING WITH ROBERT GARTON
Kathy Sarris and I requested a meeting with Robert Garton, and he called us into his office. We had a meeting which I thought I understood, unaware that I was in the presence of two diplomats experienced in nuance. I emerged angry with Garton, believing that we had acheived nothing, and said as much to Kathy Sarris, whom at that time I did not know so well. Kathy turned on me and said in reproval: "You weren't listening." She explained that Garton had in effect said that sexual orientation was never the Senate's problem: it was enhanced penalties that rubbed Senator Bray the wrong way, believing as Bray did that a crime should be punished based on its impact, not its intent. Despite the conventional wisdom that neither Garton nor Bray nor the Senate would ever consider a bill with sexual orientation, Robert Garton had talked right past me to convey to Kathy Sarris that sexual orientation had not been and would not be a problem for his senate.
With this knowledge, Justice Inc mobilized for the passage of a bill that would provide for reporting on hate crime, with enhanced penalties not included, but with Sexual orientation included for the first time in an official document from the State of Indiana. (Remember, we had been told no bill had ever been truly intended to be passed that year.)
DISCUSSION OF TRANSGENDERED
But Marla Stevens brought me up short. She objected that the bill did not cover the transgendered. Completely ignorant on the topic, I didn't even know what Marla meant, but she educated me. What's more, Marla Stevens said that if the bill did not provide coverage for the transgendered, she would attack me and the bill , and so would her organization. Faced with potential failure, I spoke with allied lobbyists, all of whom said discussion of the transgendered was crazy, that it would kill the bill. I decline to name the names in the gay community who expressed a total lack of sympathy. I tried to speak with Democratic members of the sponsoring caucus, who waived me away angrily. At the direction of the Justice, Inc, and in desperation, I requested a meeting with Robert Garton.
Garton listened to my explanation of the transgendered and the problems they faced, their especially dire plight with regard to hate crime. And he said: "Gender Identity may be too much for the senate to absorb." And he sent me out.
AMENDMENT TO THE BILL
A startling thing happened, however, in the senate judiciary committee. As the House black caucus made their presentation on the hate crime bill to the senate judiciary committee, a senator thought to be conservative introduced a baffling and unexpected amendment. It provided that crimes conducted against anyone based on their membership in any group could be classified as hate crimes and reported. The senator asked the bill's sponsors to affirm that they thought his amendment was a good one. They responded in confusion, for neither they nor I (sitting well back in the audience) could figure out what had produced this unexpected amendment. As they floundered about, the senator raised his voice and commanded of me: "CHRIS DOUGLAS, DON"T YOU THINK THIS IS AN IMPORTANT AMENDMENT?" The scales fell from my eyes. I understood immediately that Robert Garton had found a way to provide coverage for the transgendered. I affirmed.
Of all the people that I discussed the transgendered with, gay, straight, democrat, republican, only in Bob Garton did someone who listened and felt compelled to act. I sat quietly in many community meetings in which I heard many influential members of the gay community say that it would be impossible to see progress for the transgendered, and heard transgendered express frustration that nobody in the gay community believed progress was possible. For a long time thereafter, formal public progress on nondiscrimination for the transgendered proceeded through Todd Rokita's nondiscrimination policy, to Scott Keller's nondiscrimination policy, to MItch Daniels nondiscrimination policy before any movement on the topic occurred among Democrats, for the sole reason (in my opinion) that after my respectful hearing and response from Bob Garton, I insisted on discussing the question with Republicans. Talley would not have included transgendered without Peterson. Peterson would not have included transgendered without the cover from Republican attack provided by Daniels. And Daniels would not have been in the Republican chain of nondiscrimination on transgendered had a respectful hearing not begun with Garton when no other serious political leaders would discuss them. (And none of it would have happened without Marla threatening me with life and limb, and holding the interests of the transgendered to be as important as the interests of gays. ) If this all sounds like a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a chain of events producing an earthquake, that is indeed the way I see it. Had Bob Garton not been a decent and conscientious legislator, setting a precedent through a willingness to listen and act, in my opinion our HRO would not include the transgendered today. (Incidentally, Jesus MCC and the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination also deserve credit for their early insistence on progress for the transgendered.)
It is easy now to say that Garton's willingness to address sexual orientation and gender identity were minor, but at that time, remember that sexual orientation was considered to be so white hot as a topic that even our allies in the House had not wanted to include it. That bill, incidentally, passed the senate 44-6 with sexual orientation included, disproving completely that the sexual orientation was a problem. Any who think the precedent of of the words "sexual orientation " and coverage for the transgendered in an indiana law wasn't important, don't understand the importance of precedent in lobbying. Enhanced penalties? no. Advancement for the glbt community? yes. Wouldn't have happened without Bob Garton.
Some in the community have wondered why Indiana Equality was not leading an all out charge to produce the letter writing campaign against the attempt to ban adoption by same sex couples last year. The answer to that, I can now observe, is that it was already known that Bob Garton would help ensure that it would be killed. LIkewise, the attempt to ban domestic partnership at state universities. And other measures. Sometimes, the Indiana Equality coalition was far better informed and had done far more coordinating than it could afford to share publicly with the community. Sharing its information would have doomed the coalition's effectiveness and imperiled Bob Garton's. (Oh, well. He's gone now, done in by the religious right's understanding that he was responsible for similar blocking actions on measure related not to us, but to their pro-life agenda.)
I am convinced that Bob Garton would have been important to achieving a change to the harsh measure that the marriage amendment is. For those who judge him harshly for having voted for the amendment, I judge him less harshly for I know that he cooperated in the attempt to mitigate it, and I feel confident that he had in his thinking the prospect that he would have another chance to mitigate it in 2007.
I suspect that feminist lobbyists would be able to report on things Garton has done to try to help, although lobbyists who remain active at the Statehouse will likely have to remain mum.
POSTLOG ON THE FUTURE
I do not mean to convey that Bob Garton was godly, for I am sure he had his faults and, like all of his generation, has had to evolve in his thinking about gays. But I do suggest that he was a better man than he has been made out to be. He sponsored the first bill to extend civil rights protections to women in Indiana, and he backed the ERA. The religious right came to know that Bob Garton was not their friend, and now they have taken him out, abetted by those critical of one element of his service.
I fear we may discover that life will get no better and may get worse with Garton gone. Forward progress on nondiscrimination, hospital visitation, inheritance rights, etc, I fear may no longer be possible, as I believe they would have been with a Democratic house and with Garton as head of the senate. Even with a Democratic House, (and even with Garton replaced successfully by a Democrat), a more radicalized conservative Indiana senate Republican caucus will exert tremondous pressures on a Democratic house to pass the marriage amendment without change. (Bauer allowed the Democratic caucus to take a bullet for us once; I would be both surprised and impressed if he allowed the caucus to take a bullet for us again.) The radicals of the Indiana Senate and of the House will throw all the crazy measures up again, and this time, some are likely to start passing. I disagree with Brian Howey's analysis: I think Governor Daniels is much weakened by the new world, for the radical right has drawn a target on his back as much as on any, and it will be ever more difficult to pursue economic development while containing the extremists.
(ON THE TOPICS OF BENEFITS AND PAY)
Finally, I 'm going to take the rare and exposed position of disagreeing with conventional wisdome with regard to the topic of benefits for the legislature, for I think the average observer has not genuinely questioned why a man as sound as Garton supported those benefits (as does Bauer) while the wingnuts (Bosma, Waltz, Drozda) have thrown the benefits over the side.
I remember listening to Cleo Washington, the Senator from Gary, give a tearful farewell to the Senate in 2000. Washington said he could no longer afford to serve, for he couldn't support his family given the time he was away from his practice and the paltry pay. (Washington, a Democrat, seemed to have a real regard for Garton, which seemed to be mutual. Washington observerd that Garton at the last minute in the dead of an evening called Washington to the floor where to Washingtons astonishment he was allowed to enter and pass a bill he thought was dead. The bill offered hope to some men on death row, many African American whom Washington thought innocent. It was a tearful recounting of the Garton's role. )
This has become the reality fo the Indiana legislature. The pay is low and part time for what is actually practically a full time job. Mainly it is the independently wealthy (Bosma, Waltz, etc.) or those in potentially compromised positions (Drozda, Frizell, etc.) who can afford to take a righteous position against pay and benefits. In the meantime, it has become difficult to recruit decent candidates to run for office. The effect is that few who are middle class and have a family to raise can afford to serve in elective office. And any who have health problems either themselves or in their families cannot responsibly give up their health coverage, which they will never be able to recover.
It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the senate was moved to initiate benefits so people like Washington could serve. To those who claim that the legislature could raise pay, I say wake up. Responsible legislators have been attempting to improve the picture so that better candidates can be recruited. But the Bosma's, Waltz, and Drozda's of the world, because of their personal (inherited) wealth or their compromised finances (recieving money as they do from gambling industry and other suspect sources), can loudly and self-righteously oppose pay raises and benefits. Of course they do; they don't want or need them, and pay raises would enable more and better candidates to run for office. So responsible legislators like Garton and, yes, Bauer, are forced to do what they can and endure the criticism. They can't speak candidly, for to do so is to point a finger at their legislative peers and say: "We, the state of Indiana, can do a lot better than the crop of people we have serving; we need to make it possible."
In my opinion, the press drew a bead on Garton's back and decided they were going to take him out over the topic of benefits, a topic which I don't think they thought through fully. (They continue, in my opinion, to fire shots at the only people who are trying to diversify the candidate base, but who can't say that without threatening and alerting current office holders.) Friendly press did so in the mistaken, but understandable, belief that progress for Indiana would result. The result instead, I fear, will be retrogression, with the gay community especially vulnerable.
If the press REALLY want to impress, it's time the press called for pay raises and improved benefits. No legislator can call for pay raises and survive; but we would all be better served.