The Word's coverage of Indiana Equality's opposition to ENDA in this month's edition is appalling. I had a chance to read July's issue (pdf available if you can't get a print version), and I didn't even find a news blurb about the most important and most discussed piece of LGBT news to come out of Indiana in June.
The short story is that IE is willing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and doesn't want ENDA to pass, claiming that adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act is better. It's a silly proposal since ENDA's the legislation that's been introduced, that has over 100 cosponsors, and that has an actual chance of passing Congress. Sure, it's not a perfect bill, but all civil rights legislation has historically come in pieces, with the last update to employment protections for women passing in 2009 with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Instead, the group that ostensibly represents Hoosier LGBT folks would rather our national orgs work on a bill that hasn't been introduced, that would never pass the Senate, and that would probably receive opposition from even some of the more progressive House Reps who wouldn't want to go in and reopen the Civil Rights Act. Their strategy is incomplete, abstract, and over-optimistic. Personally, I'm not going to speculate on IE's motives, but just point out that their position isn't something I can get behind.
But my opinion on IE's stance is neither here nor there. That position, no matter how much damage one thinks it'll do to LGBT Hoosiers, is their position and The Word should have at least reported it. There are a few op-ed mentions of the controversy that don't even discuss the ENDA or IE's position on it, instead opting to make the whole story about the fact that there are LGBT people in Indiana who dare to question IE's authority on the topic.
First, an op-ed from Ted Fleischaker, The Word's publisher discusses IE's position on ENDA without even mentioning ENDA (huh?). It's really a swing and a miss for The Word as they tell LGBT Hoosiers who want employment protections that they need to thank their lucky stars that we at least don't have a marriage amendment in this state and not ask for too much, like for their lead LGBT org to support the biggest piece of LGBT civil rights legislation introduced in Congress.
Fleischaker mentions tone, and he takes a few digs at Bil, but he doesn't ever state the substance of the controversy. Does he think that IE's position is good? Bad? Complicated? Well, you sure as hell aren't going to find out. I'm guessing that either he doesn't understand the ENDA (possibly) or he just got so caught up in the "Oh no he didn't!" aspect of the controversy that he forgot that, you know, the issue at hand is a specific bill that would benefit LGBT people and an LGBT org's opposition to that bill (probably).
Second, there's American Values Alliance's Sheila Kennedy, who dismisses criticism of IE with: "Even in my local community, there have been persistent efforts by some bloggers to mischaracterise and undermine Indiana Equality." There is no mischaracterization here. IE was fairly clear in their opposition to ENDA. She goes on and on about the tone of the arguments, about civil discourse, but, really, what the argument comes down to is a big "shut up" to LGBT Hoosiers who want job protections.
Even though Kennedy promises her readers that she doesn't want people who disagree with IE to shut up and go away (if someone has to make that disclaimer, it usually means...), her column is a classic silencing technique. Instead of addressing the substance, she dismisses criticism by saying that the tone is inappropriate. It's a means to simply avoid engaging in the discussion, and the irony is that the call for "civil discourse" gets used to bludgeon any discourse to death, since the simple truth is that, for most people concerned with "civil discourse" above all else, the discourse can never be civil enough if it disagrees with their beliefs on the concerned topic.
(She also blames Prop 8's loss on "the discord and squabbling among the
various gay rights groups charged with defeating Prop 8," which is simplistic at best. There may have been some infighting going on out there, but the major culprits were a lack of early fundraising, commercials that were too vague to be understood, the inability of the campaign to put volunteers to work, lack of out-reach to communities of color, and a technically well-done campaign from the Yes on 8 side. I was actually surprised by how much some of those groups got along and put aside their egos to work together in California last year, thereby creating a top-down, dissent-free organizational structure that aided in our side's defeat.)
Third, there's this from that strange gossip column written from the perspective of cats:
Speaking of teaching, we hear tell some of the local bloggers need to be taught good manners and, above all, accuracy. One blog we're told gave hell to some folks who didn't deserve it and worst of all the way it was written the people trashed thought we cats were to blame for posting it -- not! Another loose cannon took their side, then rambled on over and over and over about the same mis-information. At least in the latter case we know who the source is/was and his reputation for temper fits (whew!) Still a 3rd seems to have an agenda, which leads us cats to say does anyone out there REALLY believe bloggers and trust them to get it right? Surely not us! Meow!
Actually, what's funny about that statement is how threatened The Word obviously is by the rise of blogs and blogging. "Does anyone out there REALLY believe bloggers?" Are they seriously asking that question in 2009?
What are these writers, 86? [After some thought, I'm taking that back. There are plenty of people in their 80's who are out there blogging, some who are quite popular. It's not about being old, just out-of-touch.] After some of the biggest stories of the last three election cycles came from blogs, they're still pretending like there's even a debate over whether the specific software used to display opinion and news is legit?
I would say something here about how traditional print and TV news organizations have taken to blogging themselves, but that's not really news either since it started happening a decade ago. Even The Advocate, 365gay, and local LGBT publications like the Washington Blade and JustOut started up blogs. A while ago. It's not news. It's not even fashionable anymore. It's neither "in" nor "cutting-edge" to blog. It's simply another way of presenting information, one that gay and lesbian people are particularly fond of.
This isn't the horseless carriage, cats. You can stop fearing this technology.
Of course, they misrepresent the issue by blaming it on "bloggers." But the issue at hand is IE's position on ENDA, which was posted on their own website. It wasn't created by bloggers, it's just being discussed by bloggers. And considering how The Word categorically refused to discuss the most important piece of LGBT news to come out of Indiana in June, thank God blogs are willing to bring it up. The Word shouldn't be petulantly making fun of the people discussing a major Indiana LGBT news item; rather, they should be ashamed that they weren't able to provide relevant coverage in the way several Indiana blogs have been able to.
The fourth place where IE's take on ENDA is mentioned is in Helen Harrell's summary of her BloomingOUT podcast:
Indiana Equality (IE) Secretary Vivian Benge joined us on podcast to discuss IE's reasons for not supporting the non-inclusive federal ENDA legislation. It is their stance that ENDA must include gender identity in order to be completely effective in overall employment protection for the community.
I went over to listen to the podcast, and both of the shows' hosts were stuck on trans-inclusiveness, which isn't really the main question about the legislation at this point, and didn't seem aware of IE's actual reasons for opposing ENDA. ENDA is trans-inclusive at this point, and both NCTE president Mara Keisling and Barney Frank's aide Diego Sanchez are confident it'll stay that way. It would have been nice for BloomingOUT to be aware of why their guest opposed ENDA, but it's understandable considering the radio show was put together on the day of ENDA's introduction (even though it was known for some time that a trans-inclusive ENDA would be introduced).
That quotation above, though, is the only place in the entire paper where ENDA is even mentioned. That's right - if it weren't for BloomingOUT, The Word wouldn't have tangentially mentioned the introduction of what could be the first piece of national LGBT civil rights legislation. And even if that event, since it's DC news, isn't within their editorial scope, the biggest state-level LGBT organization took a controversial position on that legislation. One would think that that would be worth at least a mention in a paper charged with reporting on items of interest to Indianapolis's queer population, especially since mainstream publications can't be trusted to do so themselves.
The Word, instead, takes the position that questioning those in power is inherently icky, is in bad taste, and that we should all keep our mouths shut and just be happy that we don't have a marriage amendment in Indiana. To The Word, the point of LGBT journalism is to defend LGBT organizations from inquiry and dissent instead of holding them accountable for their decisions or even reporting those decisions.
I wonder if we'll find out more about The Word's decision to refuse to provide decent coverage of IE's opposition to ENDA. It's bizarre, to say the least. These journals are usually starving for local news to report, and here was an interesting item that was lain out before them, that would not have required all that much investigation other than calling the parties involved.
One is left to assume that they chose to cover it like gossip instead of policy because the folks at The Word simply don't understand the policy issues involved.