Chris Douglas

Today's Hearing and SJR-7

Filed By Chris Douglas | March 21, 2007 11:05 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Brandt Hershman, Cummins Engine, Indiana Equality, SJR-7, WellPoint

Everybody seems to be taking their turn on this topic.... here are a few thoughts of my own.

1.) Senator Hershman claims that groups across the U.S. are turning to courts seeking the right to marry. He's got that wrong. Groups across the U.S. turn to the courts seeking the enforcement of the equal protection of the laws, protection guaranteed to all Americans and to all Hoosiers.

Senator Hershman, African Americans in the south have no inherent constitutional right to drink from public water fountains. Neither do whites. But every citizen, black or white or male or female, has the right to drink from the same public water fountain, for all have a constitutional guarantee to equal privileges and immunities. The citizen disgraces himself who attempts to prevent that access to the equal protections of the law. And so do you disgrace yourself.

(Many more thoughts below the jump!)

2.) We know that there are many in the glbt community, and many allies, living in Brownsburg, home to Representative Whetstone, Republican. Whetstone perceives no danger in sending a poorly written piece of legislation to Hoosier voters "to let them decide." If you live in Brownsburg and its environs, you should e-mail Whetstone, let him know you are a constituent, and ask him to do his duty and produce a quality piece of legislation. (That's what he's paid for.)

3.) Today's two of the state's leading corporate citizens spoke. If you are at a University, your institution let you down today, cowering before the legislature's power of the purse. If you have ever wondered how you, your colleagues and administrators would have behaved had their universities failed to take a stand against German attempts to purge Jews from their ranks in Berlin in 1933, look no further. The ball is in your court. Your institutions were quiet. I would think that would be unacceptable to you. What are you going to do about it?

4.) Wellpoint ((317) 532-6000) and Cummins Engine both stuck their necks out for us, for their employees, and for the future of the State of Indiana. You can bet that Focus on the Volk....er.... I mean... Focus on the Family and all such organizations are even now mobilizing campaigns of attack on both. It is essential that you call them and/or e-mail them with your gratitude. They will be hearing lots of anger; they need to hear your support.

5.) Over the months, I've heard and read various negative opinions about the coalition of organizations, Indiana Equality. While critics are entitled to their opinions, I support Indiana Equality to the utmost. I think today's action and many actions which have been taking place quietly but with no less importance, reflect considerable soberness of purpose and intensity of focus on the part of the coalition and its lobbyist, Mark St. John. The surprise of Well point testimony and of Cummins Engine testimony, of course, was no surprise, but effectively protected information until the day of. The testimony offered was also effective.

What's more, in my estimation, we are now witnessing the culmination of strategy knit together on a state-wide basis, with many players and many wellsprings of influence and advice combining. The answers to many interesting questions are under the lock and key of the coalition's nondisclosure policy, for with disclosure would have meant disruption of strategy. That remains true.

While criticisms of Indiana Equality flow, I note that the coalition has never engaged in public defense of itself, nor has it returned criticisms. It has kept its eye on the ball, in my opinion recognizing that the mission of the coalition is not to win a popularity contest, but to win a battle.

(Sometimes, that's unfortunate. I well remember when I lobbied briefly in the year 2000 on behalf of Justice Inc the attacks that were made by vocal critics of Justice, an organization with which I had been somewhat unfamiliar. As I moved to respond to those criticisms, I remember being yanked up short on my leash by the leadership of Justice. I was the read the riot act: My job was to influence the legislature, I was reminded, not to win a popularity contest. Time spent defending the organization from critics was time wasted.)

While others may criticize the work of Indiana Equality and Mark St. John, they have been engaged in a thankless task, with prospects of success that have been limited, and they've kept their eyes on the ball. The battle isn't over, but I thank Mark for all his hard work thus far, and I urge others to do the same by e-mailing him. I also urge others to donate to Indiana Equality.


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Allen J. Lopp | March 22, 2007 12:57 AM

I find this post to be an interesting viewpoint on IE, and very enlightening.

Last spring I received a copy of a mass-email from IE stating that they had a donor who was willing to put up a large sum of money if IE could raise an equal amount from its constituency. I figured that they would need to attract X number of donors at $Y dollars each to raise their target --- a very challenging but maybe possible goal.

I responded that I would donate $1000 toward that goal if several of the IE leaders would meet with me and hear some of my concerns, one of which was, short version, that IE operates as if it is not accountable to the rest of the GLBT community. Certain IE leaders, who shall remain nameless, met and apparently listened to my concerns. One attendee hardly spoke a word the entire meeting, and this might have been my tip-off about what was really going on. Before the meeting was over, I handed them my check, as promised.

What concerns me now, and your post seems to allow me to connect the dots (or maybe I'm just stupid), is that no one at the gathering made the slightest attempt to explain to me IE's organizational philosophy, or even to point out with their greatest tact that "Time spent defending the organization from critics [is] time wasted." Later I received a Thank You note, but I never heard any information on how close they got to their fundraising goal, or whether they received even a penny of the offered challenge grant.

I can see that "[keeping] their eyes on the ball" is laudable ... but operating so opaquely that the population you represent misunderstands your organizational philosophy, strategies and tactics is, I believe, questionable. And failing to explain themselves when a trying-to-be-reasonable supporter is inviting the opportunity, donation in hand, seems befuddling at best and exploitative at worst.

True, IE has no obligation to answer to me ... but it also seems apparent that they consider my ongoing support, and presumably the retention of supporters and donors similar to me, to be not only non-essential (depending upon their funding sources, maybe it isn't essential) but even trivial (that it probably isn't).

In summary, I am not surprised that I am not alone in finding IE to be a difficult organization to support, despite my finest desires to do so. It is too much like supporting the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church; they claim total authority, absolute independence and not the slightest ounce of responsiveness toward prevailing opinion.

Chris, what you describe as a virtue I perceive as a potential catastrophic problem. I question whether it is wise management to "keep their eyes on the ball" so obsessively that they consider even limited efforts at PR toward their own community and constituency to be "wasted." I do not know of any business, large or small, that practices this approach and survives long-term.

Chris Douglas | March 22, 2007 9:58 AM

Allen,

(First of all, let it be said, while I am a Chamber of Commerce alternate to Indiana Equality, backing up the Chamber's primary representative, I have never been called upon since I left the steering committee several years ago to act. I have not been on the board, the steering committee, or been an IE decision maker of any sort for years.)

1.) Indiana Equality's long term survival is not its purpose. It's original purpose as a coalition was to promote nondiscrimination legislation. That meant month-in month-out meetings over the course of years as supportive pieces were moved into position. Then all got blown out of the water by the attempts to push marriage and the backlash that resulted. IE was the only state roundtable at which organizations were gathering and coordinating. It had to wheel about to face the charge coming from the right.

2.) Indiana Equality's mission now has become, essentially, to defeat the amendment. IE may not survive. I recall some players early on making a savvy observation: IE would not survive this fight, because it would be so bloodied by what it would have to do to win.... not a community popularity contest, but the battle at the statehouse. If the IE grabs the amendment and takes it down in one bloody, gurgling mess, pulled into the grave alongside it, it will have been a short life well-lived.

3.) An open community discussion of strategy, in my opinion, invites disaster, for to discuss strategy openly is to reveal strategy. That means, generally, that mainly those who disagree with strategy emerge criticizing IE. To address their disagreements, IE would have to reveal strategy. While I respect and admire everyone who steps to this cause, and allow that everyone may have differences of opinion, I also register that almost uniformly I disagree with the criticisms and alternate strategies and tactics critics propose to pursue. The problem is that it takes too much time, invites too much invective, bruises too many feelings, and creates too much community division to address those disagreements publicly. And it certainly doesn't do the cause any good to emphasize the coalitions strengths and weaknesses publicly. While it may help to emphasize its victories, it is damaging to the cause to emphasize its defeats. All that said, in my estimation, the coalition is proving highly effective.

4.) The organization has no paid employees (to my knowledge.. unless that's changed), and one paid lobbying firm whose job is to attend to business at the statehouse. It is all volunteer, with representatives of its coalition partners.

Allen, I'm sorry your $1000 didn't get you the attention you feel you deserve. I've written more than that in support of the cause by a long shot... whether to the coalition or in political contributions that I felt would be helpful to the cause. I've also sat in thousands of hours of meetings over the years, spending my share of Saturdays and Sundays and week day nights, and business hours sometime loudly, but mostly quietly attending to community business... I spent thousands of hours participating in the conception, gestation, birth and growth of the Interfaith coalition on nondiscrimination (ICON), the Rainbow Chamber, Indiana Equality, and First Republicans. Even I don't demand attention from the IE coalition.

They've got their work to do, and attending to me or you is not their job. They're volunteers, for God's sake, with plates that are full enough as it is. Today's headline: "3 top firms to legislators: Kill gay-marriage ban" would not have happened without the coordinated efforts of the Indiana Equality coalition and the efforts of Mark St. John, the coalition's lobbyist. I'm impressed.

Though we may still fail, I am incredibly thankful for all they are doing. The sacrificed hours of the board and steering committee of Indiana Equality are thankless. I thank them.

Eye on the Prize | March 22, 2007 10:17 AM

Thanks, Chris, for a mostly informative and reflective piece. Whetstone is a lost cause, bad suit and all, but give it a whirl. Ya never know.

The IE portion, though, is way off base. If you were rationally evaluating IE's efforts from a mild distance (you're not), you'd demand accountability, you'd demand measured results, and credibility. All are sorely lacking at IE.

It does not please me to say that. Far from it.

The first words out of the mouths of Cummins and Wellpoint's execs were incorrect information. That gave the Turner-Foley camp something to chew on. And chew they have. It was supposedly IE's job to brief, prepare and vett the witness list. They failed.

They pushed the strongest arguments, regarding domestic violence, to the rear, when most reporters had gone, and many representatives were whipped, if present. These guys don't have super attention spans, anyway.

I am personally aware of strong efforts to raise this issue to Mr. Solso, and other Fortune 500o execs in this state, completely apart from IE. In fact, he barely knows who IE is. Strong corporate executives respect strong lobbying entities. IE is not such an entity.

Mr. Lopp's statement above is just sad. I take it at face value, and it should be a clarion call to IE to publish all fiscal records at once: St. John's contract, their income and expense ledgers, etc. If anyone from IE can refute Mr. Lopp's allegations, please do. I have an open mind on that issue, but it sounds strangely familiar.

I have no direct knowledge of the allegations regarding Indiana Cares. I do know that a dear friend depended deeply on their aid; he spent the last four months of his life living without it. Many of his friends pitched in, and we were glad to do so. But prior-allcoated and promised funds were suddenly missing. Who took that money, what happened...I let go of that long ago. That kind of bitterness serves no purpose.

IE is an institution unto itself. It accounts to few, and Mr. St. John's actions are lazy, and their financial acocuntability is weak.

We'll get through this fight. In May, IE needs a thorough varnishing. It amy survive, it may not.

But it will not solely speak for me, and thousands of others, any more. It has lost our trust.

Chris Douglas | March 22, 2007 11:10 AM

Eye on the Prize, this morning's headline was the news for that testimony. The Star got it right. The three firms understand that it is not merely a matter of domestic partnership benefits, but a matter of image of the state in attracting talent. The domestic violence angle was old news, in my opinion, repetition of the previous, and would not have earned the coverage.

By the way, I'm rethinking this issue of domestic partnership. Erisa laws require that everyone be treated the same for benefits. I'm thinking about the way they could potentially be turned on their head to attack companies that are extending coverage to same sex couples only, who are otherwise unable to marry. Versions of ERISA, at the national and state level, may very well be brought to bear to insist that domestic partnership programs that cover same sex couples only be terminated as non-compliant, when used in conjunction with constitutional amendments preventing laws from being construed favorable to anything other than marriage.

Lastly, I don't know who you are, but I suspect that you are the well intentioned individual who called me with concerns last year on poll day, but who refused to vest your reputation by discussing those concerns directly with Indiana Equality leadership in a way that would be credible. I relayed to Indiana Equality your concerns, but leadership rightly observed that there was no serious way they could handle it if you weren't prepared to talk with them substantively. If I am mistaken, forgive me. But if I am not, then you refused my urging that you share your concerns directly, even if quietly, with the people who mattered, for fear of "getting your name dragged into it". While I think your intentions are sound, everybody else has put their reputations on the line and endured the slings and arrows. You can't expect to be listened to, and you can't blame IE leadership, when you refused my attempt to mediate a direct, even confidential, discussion, protective of your "reputation." Would that we all could protect our reputations so carefully.

Chris Douglas | March 22, 2007 11:55 AM

By the way, I fore-square oppose making public the coalition's finances. Such an act, in my opinion, would be utterly contrary to the broad interests of the community in having an effective organization. The coalition's accounting is answerable to its member organizations. Such a statement would reveal the coalition's financial strengths and/or vulnerabilities. I utterly oppose placing this information at the disposal of our opposition, which is what a full public accounting would do. When it's all over? Fine. But not until then. (I re-iterate that that I am not on IE's steering committee and have no personal stake in the question of whether the organization has or has not been well-run financially. To the contrary, as a donor I would be outraged myself if the organization was mismanaging or misappropriating funds on any significant scale. For now, publication of the organization's finances would serve no helpful purpose.)

Gary Welsh | March 22, 2007 1:35 PM

So in other words, Chris, I shouldn't have access to the same information I've been able to obtain on Eric Miller's Advance America from Guidestar? Just another reason not to give to the organization. If your finances are a big secret, then you have something to hide.

Chris Douglas | March 22, 2007 4:43 PM

Give me a break... why would we (the community... ) want to reveal to Miller what our coalition's budget is? So they can measure and plan against it?

IE has every reason in the world to maintain operational security. Most nonprofits have no adversaries... the coalition has many.... Focus on the Family.... Indiana Family Institute... Advance America... the American Family Association of Indiana... all out to prevail over the interests of the glbt community and the coalition...

IE's operational security (a military term... along the lines of denying the adversary any insight whatsover.... )has nothing to do with community critics. Surely the entities with the most interest in ensuring the money is well spent are the member organizations which, mainly, have raised that money. The harshest critics of spending I observed were those responsible for the purse strings in IE. I'll bet that remains true.

I remember just when I was getting out of the service, running into either Dixon Osbourn. I was making observations about "legitimate" concerns the military might have had... finally, as I recall... Dixon said: why are you trying so hard to do their job for them in defeating us? Dixon brought me up short, and he was right... my time was better spent engaging the enemy (so to speak)rather than picking fights with the Service man's legal defense fund.

Gary, you perform a valuable service with Advance Indiana, but you wouldn't sign a nondisclosure agreement.. and you run a blog.... give me a break, guy! Nobody's trying to hide anything from you... but the coalition definitely has an interest in maintaining control over its strategy and to prevent its strategies from falling into the hands of opposition. I fully approve of Indiana Equality's keeping its cards close to its vest... even when I MYSELF am not allowed to look at them.

I've stayed out of this fight for one reason: SJR-7.

I disagree with quite a bit of what you've had to say here in the comments section, Chris. Several things you've said have been blatantly untrue. However, we have to keep our eye on the prize right now and airing our dirty laundry in public serves no good.

Eventually the truth will come out. But let's save that for after the session.

Chris said, "It's original purpose as a coalition was to promote nondiscrimination legislation. ... Then all got blown out of the water by the attempts to push marriage and the backlash that resulted. ... IE, had to wheel about to face the charge coming from the right."

It was the tragedy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that gave our community the fight for marriage equality. Longtime partners were being financially and mercifulnessly devastated as their family member(s) were dying prematurely--without wills, durable power of attorney or the basic human decency of being allowed to comfort a dying (hospitalized) loved one. It was this shocking reality check (no protections or support for the gays) that gave our community the fight for marriage equality.

This reality predated IE's purpose/mission statement--to promote nondiscrimination legislation--by years. As well, IN's Morrison v Sadler (Oct. 2002) case. To continue to maintain that IE was forced to change their core mission because the marriage equality fight suddenly rear its head is... well, not so spot on

For our family, the issues are why did IE change their core mission? And, why has IE not found an acceptable alternative to their present policy of financial accountability. After all, if IE needs donations from individuals in addition to their coalition partners then accountability guidelines need to reassure both.

Chris Douglas | March 23, 2007 2:53 PM

Actually, Kay, you make a good point regarding the impact of the AIDS epidemic and the subsequent imperative.

But in terms of successful progression towards objectives, nondiscrimination legislation establishes the necessary underlying principle that we must be treated equally. From that point, we can progress further based upon its ramifications. It is not coincidence that the coastal states addressed nondiscrimination first.

Bil, I usually try to keep my comments short and sweet...heehee...with this exception. I hope some of your 'newer visitors' find and read it.

****************
How AIDS Gave Gays Marriage

By Christopher Caldwell

In the 1980s, as the Aids epidemic spread among American homosexuals, Pat Buchanan, the political commentator and sometime presidential candidate, called the disease "nature's revenge". Last week, as pairs of men and pairs of women walked down the marriage aisle with the blessing of the state of Massachusetts, it appeared that nature has a funny way of showing her feelings.

In gaining full legal marriage rights in an important state, American gays have effected the quickest transition from pariah status to protected status in the history of civil rights movements. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won a record landslide after a campaign in which his party ridiculed the gays who that year had attended the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. In 1985, a majority of Americans polled (51 per cent, according to the Los Angeles Times) favoured quarantining those suffering from Aids, the great majority of whom were homosexual. That Aids would further marginalise homosexuals seemed clear to virtually everyone.

Virtually everyone was wrong. In retrospect, it was Aids that created the critical mass for gay marriage. Aids had its most brutal impact on the same promiscuous, uncloseted part of the gay population that Republicans had held up to voters' mockery. Not all practitioners of the promiscuous lifestyle died - but most of the institutions around which that lifestyle was organised did, starting with San Francisco's notorious "bathhouses". Meanwhile, as the sexual orientation of closeted homosexuals was revealed in the cruellest way possible - through their deaths - Americans were generally stunned to discover how prevalent homosexuality was, and how otherwise "normal" most of its practitioners were.

Gays created new institutions in an atmosphere of increasing sexual caution. As a consequence, the heterosexual bourgeois who today stumbles into the typical gay bar in San Francisco or the West Village will find the place more mainstream and less threatening than its equivalent in the 1980s.

By revealing closeted gays to each other, Aids turned the "gay community" - 20 years ago a figment of politically correct vocabulary - into a real community, with a capacity for political organisation and its own esprit de corps. In an era when al-Qaeda rests its strategy on the assessment that the west is too soft to fight a war, gays make up the only segment of most western societies that, collectively, has endured a war-like horror.

As a political group, gays are the least naive and the least soft of our fellow citizens. As Jonathan Rauch, the journalist, puts it in his new book arguing for gay marriage, "countless homosexuals learnt to change bed-pans, wipe spittle, clean vomit, carry a frail body up a flight of stairs". The experience has prompted the same self-confidence and sense of entitlement that military service does among veterans.

The experience of Aids is the reason why marriage is the particular form that gay rights is taking now. The special damage visited on gays at the height of the Aids era - the damage that differed from the grief that death brings to everybody - came from the interaction of sudden death with a probate law designed for heterosexuals. There is an entire oral literature of men dying in hospital denied the company of their lovers of several decades; couples thrown into penury because American-style health benefits, designed to protect spouses, do not transfer to partners; successful challenges to wills by vindictive relatives of men who had bequeathed their life's savings to otherwise destitute boyfriends (who themselves needed expensive experimental drugs); and so on.

It was only natural that the gay community, once it had become a political reality, would seek the remedy of marriage.

As it happened, Aids left heterosexual society in a weak position to deny that remedy, because it recast public attitudes. Sexual orientation remained a moral issue for many Americans - but it became a public health issue for all of them. In this context the wishes of gays and straights dovetailed. Suddenly, a misfit homosexual suppressing his natural inclinations in order to "pass" as a married bourgeois was not just a ridiculous eccentric but a mortal threat to a heterosexual woman.

Paradoxically, since voting publics tend to view morals as their business and health as the business of "experts", Aids placed gay activism beyond the reach of electorates, which even today oppose same-sex marriage in every state. The movement towards gay marriage has proceeded at the level of bureaucratic regulation and judicial intervention.

There is reluctance to acknowledge that gay marriage arises so directly out of the Aids epidemic. Opponents are confronted with their historic wrongness about much of what gays really wanted. It may also wound the vanity of gay-marriage proponents - who rather extravagantly compare themselves to the civil-rights campaigners of the 1960s - to be told that the roots of their victories lie in concrete problems demanding practical solutions, not in their own moral rightness and persuasive brilliance.

Even if something admirable in the national character is pushing Americans towards gay marriage, that admirable something cannot be just morality or intelligence. Otherwise Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King would have shown some preoccupation with gay marriage, and we have no evidence that any of them ever gave it a moment's thought.

This does not make the pedigree of gay marriage less noble. People are more likely to fight for institutions that grow out of concrete problems than for ones that grow out of other people's utopias. And it becomes necessary to fight for such institutions because their legitimacy in others' eyes is not guaranteed forever.

As the catastrophe of Aids abates in the west, it is possible that heterosexuals will forget why gay marriage was sought, and granted, in the first place. Acknowledging that gay marriage had its beginnings in the Aids crisis, if gay marriage advocates are capable of doing so, will strengthen the endurance of the institution they have just won.

The writer is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard

Allen J. Lopp | March 24, 2007 5:47 PM

Before this thread gets too cold, a few follow-up points:

(1) Thank you, Chris Douglas, for taking time to respond.

(2)However:
>
>Allen, I'm sorry your $1000 didn't get you
>the attention you feel you deserve.
>
Quite the contrary --- I requested a meeting, just a meeting, and I got it. I realize $1000 is not, in the grand scheme of things, much money --- it won't even buy a last-minute airline ticket to DC and back. I stated the amount I gave because I didn't know how else to characterize it: it wasn't what one calls "small" but it wasn't truly "large" either.

(3) I don't mean to be adding to IE's troubles, generally it is a worthy group doing effective work with the resources it has. I do believe it could represent itself to the community better though.

(4) In the early 1990's I participated in LIFE AIDS Lobby in California (the Pete Wilson era). I'm sure this experience colors my expectations of IE, maybe unrealistically. I'm sending Bil Browning a more lengthy post of my experience with LIFE, and if Bil finds in on-message and worthy, I'm sure it will appear shortly.