Ellen Andersen

Excerpt from my Letter of Resignation

Filed By Ellen Andersen | June 15, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay rights, Indiana, IUPUI, marriage amendment, Michigan, New Jersey, SJR-7, University of Vermont, Vermont

After living for more than a decade in Indiana, my partner and I are pulling up stakes and moving to Vermont this summer. We're both taking positions on the faculty at the University of Vermont. We hadn't been planning to move, but when the opportunity arose, we realized we couldn't turn it down.

This excerpt from my letter of resignation explains why we're leaving IUPUI, even though we love our jobs and the life we've built here in Indianapolis:

The University of Vermont, however, offers me something that IUPUI cannot: the opportunity to live in a state that recognizes and values my family. My partner, Susanmarie Harrington, and I have been in a committed relationship for nearly fifteen years. Over the years we have spent thousands of dollars drafting legal documents designed to give us some of the legal protections that many married couples take for granted, such as the ability to make medical decisions for each other in a time of crisis, etc. But these documents are radically incomplete. To take just one example, there is simply no way for me to designate Susanmarie as my legal next of kin here in Indiana. Vermont, however, accords same-sex couples who enter into civil unions all the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage. Those protections matter.

Living in Vermont will also allow Susanmarie and me to raise our daughter in an environment where our family is not under attack. S.J.R. 7 [a constitutional amendment that would bar same-sex couples from marrying or receiving the "legal incidents" of marriage] has been considered by the legislature every year since 2004. Until now, our daughter has been too young to absorb the vituperative commentary about the value of her family that necessarily accompanies this legislation, but she is now five years old [she just turned six] and becoming more aware of the world around her. If we can shield her from this hatred for even a few more years, it is both our duty and our desire to do so.

I want to make it very clear that Susanmarie and I have always found IUPUI a wonderful and accepting place to work. We're especially grateful that the university instituted domestic partner benefits. Those benefits made it possible for us to take advantage of family leave when our daughter was adopted. As you know, she came to us medically fragile, and our ability to have a full-time parent with her throughout much of her first year home was a tremendous gift.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn't note that I was troubled by Indiana University's inexplicable unwillingness to testify in opposition to S.J.R. 7 last year. Several of Indiana's largest businesses, including Cummins Engine, Dow Agrosciences, Anthem Wellpoint, and Lilly spoke out against the amendment, recognizing its potential harm to their employees. By the time of the hearings, there was already evidence that a similarly worded amendment in Michigan might require public schools to cease providing domestic partner benefits. The ultimate resolution of this issue remains to be seen, but at the moment a lower court has held that domestic partner benefits are unconstitutional when provided by public institutions. [The Michigan Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling shortly after I wrote this letter.] Surely Indiana University and its fellow institutions of higher learning must be aware that litigation over the constitutionality of domestic partner benefits is likely to occur in this state as well in the event that S.J.R. 7 passes and becomes law? IU's unwillingness to speak out against this possibility raises the uncomfortable implication that the university as a whole is uninterested in protecting its LGBT faculty and staff.

So that's it. We're outta here in about four weeks, give or take. I'll still be writing for Bilerico, but doing it from the Green Mountains of Vermont. In the meantime, if anyone wants to buy a fabulous house in a great neighborhood, on a block filled with queer families, shoot me a line here at Bilerico. My neighbors would be thrilled to have another queer or queer-friendly family move in.


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What a huge loss for IUPUI and a great gain for Vermont! Congrats on your move!

Even though we will all miss you here in Indy, I know you will enjoy your new home! I wish you and your family all the best! I am glad I was able to get to know you!

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | June 15, 2008 6:01 PM

Nothing but the best to you and your family, Ellen. And thanks for all your your efforts on behalf of the GLBT comunity in Indiana.

I know very much how you feel, Ellen, as I get my paperwork together to go tomorrow morning to extend my titre de sejour (kinda like a green card except it also gives me health care) here in France.

Yes, LGBT-friendliness is definitely a factor that many LGBT people take into the decision of where to live. But isn't that part of the point of homophobic legislation in the first place?

Joe Miller | June 15, 2008 8:40 PM

Ellen,

It's sad to lose you, Susanmarie and your beautiful daughter. You've made huge contributions to our community. Thanks so much for all your hard work as you worked together with the Indiana Democratic State Party on our community's behalf these past years.

As others have posted here, Ellen, our loss is Vermont's gain. My personal best wishes to you all as you begin this new chapter in your lives.

Hugz.... Joe

At least I'll know someone in Vermont now! Three actually! And they're very cool someone's too! *grins*

I'll miss sitting on your back porch after the rain, Ellen. You'd better to buy a house with a nice porch in Vermont for when I come to visit. :)

Thanks for being this public about your reasons for leaving Indiana. Too often, LGBT folk just leave for a better place without actually saying why.

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | June 15, 2008 10:41 PM

Thanks so much for all the kind wishes, everyone. It was a surprisingly hard decision for us to make, given how rooted in the community here we feel, but once we thought about it through the lens of our daughter, the choice seemed clear.

Joe -- it's always been my honor to work with the Democratic Party on behalf of LGBT issues. Thanks for helping lure me into it.

Bruce -- I guess some folks push homophobic legislation with the goal of getting LGBT folks to move away, but I honestly think that most of them never even consider that LGBT folks might actually leave to move to more favorable climes. I don't think most homophobic legislation is about pushing non-hets away. Its about "strengthening" "traditional moral values" and "traditional families." I think that LGBT people, as real people, are basically invisible to these folks.

Bil -- the house it looks like we're going to buy doesn't have a porch to speak of, but it does have a very nice sunroom that opens on to the backyard. I hope it'll suit... And as for being open about my reasons for leaving, it struck me in the middle of deciding whether or not to move, that perhaps the best thing I could do for LGBT rights in Indiana was to leave! This was, I admit, a bit of an ego-deflator. But really. As long as LGBT people leave quietly, the economic harm of homophobic legislation remains invisible.

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | June 15, 2008 10:59 PM

Thanks so much for all the kind wishes, everyone. It was a surprisingly hard decision for us to make, given how rooted in the community here we feel, but once we thought about it through the lens of our daughter, the choice seemed clear.

Joe -- it's always been my honor to work with the Democratic Party on behalf of LGBT issues. Thanks for helping lure me into it.

Bruce -- I guess some folks push homophobic legislation with the goal of getting LGBT folks to move away, but I honestly think that most of them never even consider that LGBT folks might actually leave to move to more favorable climes. I don't think most homophobic legislation is about pushing non-hets away. Its about "strengthening" "traditional moral values" and "traditional families." I think that LGBT people, as real people, are basically invisible to these folks.

Bil -- the house it looks like we're going to buy doesn't have a porch to speak of, but it does have a very nice sunroom that opens on to the backyard. I hope it'll suit... And as for being open about my reasons for leaving, it struck me in the middle of deciding whether or not to move, that perhaps the best thing I could do for LGBT rights in Indiana was to leave! This was, I admit, a bit of an ego-deflator. But really. As long as LGBT people leave quietly, the economic harm of homophobic legislation remains invisible.

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | June 15, 2008 11:39 PM

Thanks so much for all the kind wishes, everyone. It was a surprisingly hard decision for us to make, given how rooted in the community here we feel, but once we thought about it through the lens of our daughter, the choice seemed clear.

Joe -- it's always been my honor to work with the Democratic Party on behalf of LGBT issues. Thanks for helping lure me into it.

Bruce -- I guess some folks push homophobic legislation with the goal of getting LGBT folks to move away, but I honestly think that most of them never even consider that LGBT folks might actually leave to move to more favorable climes. I don't think most homophobic legislation is about pushing non-hets away. Its about "strengthening" "traditional moral values" and "traditional families." I think that LGBT people, as real people, are basically invisible to these folks.

Bil -- the house it looks like we're going to buy doesn't have a porch to speak of, but it does have a very nice sunroom that opens on to the backyard. I hope it'll suit... And as for being open about my reasons for leaving, it struck me in the middle of deciding whether or not to move, that perhaps the best thing I could do for LGBT rights in Indiana was to leave! This was, I admit, a bit of an ego-deflator. But really. As long as LGBT people leave quietly, the economic harm of homophobic legislation remains invisible.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 16, 2008 6:59 AM

Professor Anderson,

Indiana has been educating and exporting her best for years. I met Herman B. Wells when I was at IU and that marvelous Gay man is spinning in his grave.

I was always surprised that Eugene V. Debbs and Earl Butz chose to stay!

Good luck and safety in your move!

One of the reasons I moved from my beloved hometown is that it only protects transgender people in terms of city employment, and as Izza Lopez's case proved, that doesn't do the rest of us who are employed or seeking working in Houston any good if we don't work for the City of Houston.

Louisville does. If I decided to go back to Texas, I'd move to eithet Dallas or Austin because they DO protect us.

In the meantime, I would suggest sending all the opponents of GLBT rights Richard Florida's book 'The Rise of the Creeative Class' that points out that areas with gLBT feriendly lasw and policies will be wealthier than non-friendly areas.

Cincinnati, Ohio know that all too well. They hated on GLBT people for most of the 90's, and it cost thewm $600 million through the decade, two potential corporate relocatios and a shot at becoming the US bid city for the 2012 Olympics that was eventually won by London.

Brianna Harris | June 16, 2008 10:34 PM

Ellen, Good luck at UVM. Their gain will be substantial. Burlington is a wonderful city...actually more of a big town. With Lake Champlain and the general friendly atmosphere it is a great place to live and work and play. If you get to Burlington before July 12 you can participate in the Vermont Pride celebration taking place that day. Welcome to our wonderful state!