So I have to admit, I've never seen this much attention paid to bilerico.com as I have over the Tony Dungy/Indiana Family Institute story. From the Associated Press to Sports Illustrated, from Pam's House Blend to Stampede Blue (a Colts fan blog), bilerico.com has been sent around the world. (The Sports Illustrated quote that they lifted from the blog is the funniest one to me. I can't even play ping pong!)
And lots of folks have been checking us out because of it. You may have noticed the comments section lighting up on quite a few posts. You might have seen one of the e-mailed comments sent to Michele O'Mara of our Ask Michele column. And while I shared one e-mail sent to me by a particularly verbally challenged "Christian," I haven't shared the huge pile of other e-mails I've gotten (99.99% from rightwingers).
Which brings me to the point of this post. Lots of our commentors and e-mail buddies keep complaining that Tony Dungy has his right to say what he wants. They are correct. Yes, if you're visiting to complain, read that again. You are correct. He can say whatever he wants. But, and this is a big but, so can the LGBT community.
Here's what most of those complaining about our stance have missed: Tony Dungy's words in support of the Indiana Family Institute have hurt our community. While he's entitled to his opinion, many gay and lesbian fans have supported the Colts time and time again - whether they were winning or losing. By demeaning our community with a quote that says, "IFI is saying what the Lord says. You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I'm on the Lord's side," Coach Dungy is effectively saying that the discussion has become God vs Gays. IFI is not authorized to speak for God. If you are a Christian, I'd be surprised if you'd agree with even a tenth of what the IFI stands for. (Do you think Spongebob Squarepants makes you gay? Do you think Jesus would have discriminated? Do you think that gays and lesbians shouldn't be protected from someone who tries to kill them? Do you think that Christ taught love or hate?)
But not only did Dungy give his name (and his image in full Colts regalia) to the IFI, he also gave them $20,000 worth of his personal memorabilia to auction off. (I have confirmed with the Colts Community Relations Department that the merchandise was from Dungy's personal collection.) $20,000 can buy a lot of hate speech and publicity that can ruin our lives - literally. When Curt Smith stands in front of audiences calling our community "abominations" and "perverts," that message resonates with gullible folks who can take things to extremes. It's dangerous. And IFI is a dangerous group. They are affiliated with Focus on the Family - which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a "hate group." Web filtering software blocks their site for "hate speech." This is not an organization that Coach Dungy should be affiliated with.
There are plenty of other organizations that Coach Dungy can support that also don't support same-sex marriage. That's his right. But by joining forces with IFI, he is - tacitly - endorsing hate. He's funding it with a total of $70,000 raised that evening. It's not the coach's stance on gay marriage I'm necessarily upset with - it's the alignment with the Indiana Family Institute.
Coach Dungy should have known better than to fall for an innocuous name that included the word "family." This organization is only concerned with some families. If I remember correctly, at the recent hearing on SJR-7 the IFI was questioned closely on their definition of family - which only included a man and a woman and children. Single parents or childless heterosexual couples need not apply. Are you getting the picture?
So, if you'd like to help combat Coach Dungy's gift to the religious right, I'd like to encourage everyone reading this to visit the American Values Alliance website. Sign up for an account. You'll notice a donation box on the left. The AVA is an Indiana organization that's dedicated to being "A practical voice for progressive values." They are a 501(c)3 not-for-profit. And I'm the Executive Director. You know that money will be put to good use - countering the hate and fear that groups like IFI spread in our state. And they've never had a $20,000 donation - most of their money has come in dribs and drabs over the past couple of years. It'd be money well spent - to promote tolerance and progressive values. Let's see if we can't raise even more money than IFI did.
Because the IFI's values aren't the values that are important to my family. And I don't think they're really Tony Dungy's values either.