I was at the grassroots meeting at the Boulevard Place Cafe last night (not quite live-blogging, but I brought a pen and pad). Here are some thoughts, facts, and observations from it:
The central focus of the meeting was, of course, SJR-7, specifically aimed at it not passing the House and not getting on the 2008 ballot. This session of the General Assembly will be over in five weeks; the amendment could be out of committee and on the floor in as little as two. The House is divided 51-49 in favor of the Democrats. One Republican has publicly stated that he is opposed to the amendment (Jon Elrod), and there's a significant group of Democrats who favor it.
People discussed ideas on how to get the message out to put pressure on the (in both Indianapolis and non-Indianapolis settings) and what that message should be. I'll touch on the latter here breifly, because if you're reading this blog, you probably don't need to be convinced. Good talking points are about the amendment are available at StopTheAmendment.org and Indiana Equality. Both talk about the effects of the anti-marriage amendment on businesses, universities, the elderly, and domestic violence victims. It's important to get many messages out against this amendment so that straight people who feel no vested interest in our well-being will oppose it. In this way we can separate the text of SJR-7 and the cultural context in which it is being presented to Hoosiers, which the Courts will do anyway when interpreting it, allowing for a cooler analysis of the words that make up the amendment, and use it to create a broad umbrella of interests that oppose it.
One argument that stood out was that this bill is very much against the best interests of socially conservative Democrats. We all know that the reason that these amendments have been appearing on ballots is to get the socially conservative Republican base out to vote. No surprise there. What is surprising is that the House Democrats who support SJR-7 don't seem to have thought about this. Really, the socially conservative Democrats who support putting this on the measure come from the very districts that are more likely to vote Republican, who have supported them either because support for each party is close enough in those districts to be swayed by chance or because they like those particular Democrats as individuals. If you put SJR-7 on the ballot and attract a lot of people out to vote who don't like GLBT people and who don't normally vote, well, say good-bye to your sweet part-time job, Mr. or Ms. Conservative Democrat. Add to that the very real possibility that Hillary Clinton will be on the top of the ballot, and that spells disaster. If the GOP leadership throughout the country for the past decade has collectively salivated over such amendments to get votes, then Democrats should think twice about putting it on the 2008 ballot.
Lots of ideas were presented on how to get the message out, and many were things that you can do even if you're not a professional lobbyist. You can write a letter to your local paper, help out PFLAG's 100 letter campaign by writing a polite letter to your state representative (find out who s/he is here, get his/her address here or here), and talk to professional associations, churches, and other groups you belong to about releasing a statement opposing SJR-7. The idea for those of us who are just concerned citizens is to talk about this as much as we can, to as many people as we can, through as many media as we can, to put as much pressure as we can on the House not to pass it.