The main dining room (Click all pictures to enlarge)
Sorry for the delay in posting these today after I promised them to you last night, but it was such a beautiful day today! I'm loving being a homeowner just for all the yard work you get to do. Plus, I went in on a minor road trip today too - just to enjoy some more sunshine. *grins*
First up, a quick picture of four of your bilerico contributors at last night's reception before the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner - Jerame Davis, Bil Browning, Ellen Andersen, and Don Sherfick
And then before we get to the real meat of the post, one last nod to the whimsical... Remember the little chocolate donkeys that were served for dessert? (See the 8:35 update) I snapped a picture of mine since they were so cute. Seriously, they were the best part of the actual dinner! I don't think anyone came for the food though, so we'll move on after the jump.
After the speeches were finished, Ellen and I went wandering amongst the attendees. She wanted to speak to a few people and I wanted to find Donnelly and Ellsworth to ask them your questions. Ellen snapped this photo of Dan Parker and I after the dinner. He is a very charming man - and the Democrats have prospered under his leadership. Our community owes him a debt of gratitude too...
Then I sighted our first target: Representative Joe Donnelly. I walked up to the Congressman and introduced myself and the blog. I let him know that our readers had tasked me to find out why he had voted against the hate crimes bill. The Representative said that he would be happy to talk to me about his vote against the bill. We started to discuss it, but we kept getting interrupted by well-wishers. He commented that he had voted against the Republican initiative to push the bill back into committee and that he knew there would be enough votes to pass the bill. Since we kept getting interrupted, he invited me to call his office Monday morning and set up a time to do a full interview on Tuesday. I accepted and moved on to our next mark.
I sighted Representative Brad Ellsworth and made my way to his side. As with Rep Donnelly, I introduced myself and explained what the readers had asked about his vote against the hate crimes bill. And you know, I have to say, I was very pleased with the Congressman and his reaction. We moved to the side as he explained his position and while we were interrupted quite a few times, he kept at the conversation doggedly. We ended up sitting on the stage eventually and when we wrapped up the conversation we were the last two groups in the room - Jerame, Ellen and I (and a few friends) and the Representative and his entourage.
Rep Ellsworth mentioned several times that this vote was one of the hardest he's had to cast. He said that he called police officers and prosecutors around the district and that none of them could tell him of any hate crimes against gays or lesbians that had happened. I quickly pointed out that as a resident of Evansville, I'd seen a few and that I knew of at least one person who didn't report it to the police because of the whole "What would they do? Nothing." mindset. He also pointed out that he'd gotten over 3,000 separate e-mails from constituents opposing the hate crimes bill, while he'd only received a couple dozen e-mails in favor of the bill!
Since he represents an overwhelmingly conservative district and the constituents clearly spoke (or at least some of them did - and they weren't from our community!), no law enforcement official from his district said he should vote for it, and he knew there was already enough votes to pass it, he voted against the bill.
Ellen came up and also told the Congressman how disappointed she was in his vote against hate crimes - maybe she'll post something about her conversation with him. He also invited me to call his office on Monday to schedule an interview for Tuesday when we wouldn't have so many people barging in mid-conversation. Ellsworth was very sincere about his vote and I respect him for his honesty. He also said that he planned on voting in favor of ENDA and pointed out that when he was Vanderburgh County sheriff, he implemented a new non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation.
I'll be following up with both Congressmen's offices on Monday. I'll keep you posted.