Chris Douglas

What it has taken, and what it will take

Filed By Chris Douglas | May 09, 2006 8:29 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement

A lot of work has been done in Indiana, by a lot of people, without which we would be farther behind. We could be farther ahead, too. If I could require of glbt activists two courses of study, one would be a geometry, and the other diplomacy.

Why the geometry & diplomacy?

In geometry, you gain an understanding that in a complex web, by knowing a couple of angles and the length of a couple of lines on one side of complex diagram, you can make predictions about angles and lengths on another edge of the diagram that are so distant as to appear unrelated. More importantly, by making a slight change in angle in one position, you can effect dramatic changes in angles and lengths elsewhere in the diagram. To achieve a desired change in a distant angle, you have to be able to understand and affect complex intervening relationships and connections, some of them of minor in appearance, but of critical consequence.

The same is true in human affairs.

Why diplomacy? Because understanding a web of complex relationships, the effect of one upon another upon another upon other, is not enough; you occasionally must be able to achieve in a person a helpful change of thinking or direction. In order to effect a desired change in a human being, though, that being must indeed be treated as a fairly unique human, not as beast or a motor. An understanding of when tactfully to cajole versus when forcefully to confront, when to support, when to withdraw support, when to build and when to destroy, when to appeal to reason and when to appeal to emotion, always aware of the importance of the decision in the context of the web. You also have to get enough information to know who can be helpful and who can't.

Any who might think that the HRO occured spontaneously, or was the product of but a few months work by a handful , must not understand what actually had to happen before the HRO could be passed. Anyone who thinks that the Human Rights Ordinance of Indianapolis would have passed without Linda Perdue, Joe Miller, members of INTRAA, and others pressing in association with a bi-partisan Human Rights Commission; without the establishment of the Interfaith Coalition for Nondiscrimination (ICON) calling for comprehensive nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and therewith obtaining religious support to counterbalance religious opposition; without GIFA generating phone calls, e-mails, and people at hearings; without a moderate Republican candidate (Gilroy) seeking the gay vote in 1999 and initiating a competition; without Wally Paynter, Kathy Sarris, and other board members of Justice deciding to oppose vigorously a legislative diversity measure that lacked sexual orientation and without the community coming together to achieve its inclusion; without Marla Stevens insisting that the transgendered by accomodated; without a Democratic Governor (O'Bannon) adopting a formal nondiscrimination policy embracing sexual orientation; and without the board of the Rainbow Alliance pressing him to; without Republican moderate legislators following Liberal Democrats to embrace the term sexual orientation in legislation; without the Republican secretary of state (Rokita) and Governor (Daniels) covering gender identity in their campaigns and office policies; without gay Republicans pressing them to; without liberal Democrats (like Jackie Nytes) and a liberal Republican (like Scott Keller) pressing from inside the city county council; without Stonewall moving certain Democrats from hostile to supportive to enthusiastic; without Kathy Sarris damning the torpedoes and plunging ahead with a vision of statewide coalition of organizations that became Indiana Equality; without IE directing the formation of Region 8; without Region 8' tireless work; without IE paying Lambda Consulting and others to work intensively on passage; without the Rainbow Chamber and the Interfaith coalition presenting an important and respectable reality to the business and religious world; without the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and many religious leaders endorsing the HRO; without the Indianapolis Star's endorsement and without activists informing them and pressing them to; without the Mayor embracing first sexual orientation and then gender identity; without activist pressing him to; without Steve Talley changing his mind and going against a fundamentalist religious constituency; without phone calls placed by Al Sharpton to Patrice Abdullah; without Republicans Sheriff Cottey and fomer city county council president Beurt Ser Vaas calling Lance Langford to support him in his isolation; without any number of private meetings and phone calls by any number of people not mentioned here, the HRO would not have passed.

And these are only the parts I personally am aware of. An entire and separate list might be generated of people and actions without whom the HRO would not have passed, unbeknownst to me. Drop from the list one "inconsequential" part, and then watch as another of greater known consequence drop too, it having depended on the former. Then watch the entire edifice sink. Remember that just a few months before, with the very same councillors, the HRO failed, because some of the necessary, yet seemingly inconsequential, pieces had not been brought to bear, a necessary remote angle not identified, or the necessary task not accomplished with the appropriate diplomatic stragegy.

As any number of necessary tasks are worked by any number of organizations, hopefully on a coordinated basis, but not always, those who attack critical missions, mindless of the geometry and the impact on other missions,, can render futile the efforts of everyone. (One of those missions, most appropriate for those with Republican roots, is maintaining lines of defense in the Republican Party and erecting new ones without undermining the edifice.)

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Linda Perdue | May 9, 2006 10:19 PM

Ah, there is so much I could say about this post, but I'll just summarize by saying two things:

1. Good job, Chris, and welcome back.

2. My daughter swears that her extensive classes in geometry, and other math drivel is what makes her a champion pool shark. Knowing which angles to play...

Good night.

Tracy Elliott | May 9, 2006 10:33 PM

As always Chris, thoughtful and wise. Thanks.

Wow, I agree. Maybe we are on the same page, go figure. This is a post that was long overdue.

Tracy Elliott | May 9, 2006 10:41 PM

Oh, Chris, don't forget Mrs. Carson privately using her moral suasion to remind local Democrats of the right thing to do and deftly but publicly calling one of them out to forewarn of the consequences of doing the wrong thing.

I feel obliged to point out that Indiana Equality did not pay me for my work on the Indianapolis Human Rights Ordinance. I volunteered with IE Region 8 and was elected chair well before accepting employment with Lambda Consulting. During my time as the Region 8 chair, I kept my time accounting for the two positions very separate so as not to cause confusion.

Even currently, I am not paid by Indiana Equality nor do I report to anyone in leadership at the organization. I am employed by Lambda Consulting. Indiana Equality is one of Lambda's clients. | May 10, 2006 3:26 AM

Good job!

I'll add every person who spoke openly and honestly about their life as an LGBT person and/or about their support of LGBT equal rights under the law.

I'll add all those who did the work before on whose shoulders we stand.

It is balloons at the Sara Awards, it is Magnus Hirschfeld, it is people exercising courage to pick up the newletter from the mailbox in the Comstock enforcement era, it is an Elsa Gidlow poem, it is singing "God Save Us Queens" in a bar on a Sunday afternoon, it is past consolidated into a platform for now.

I would like to add the efforts of PFLAG members who attended IE meetings, distributed our Family Scrapbook to City-Council members, showing them real faces and sharing real family stories, made countless telephone calls and sent e-mails, wrote letters to the Indy Star and were always there as straight allies!

Chris Douglas | May 10, 2006 9:02 PM

Thank you Annette, Marla, and Tracy for adding well-deserved notes. I knew soon enough there would postings of critical individuals and particpants I failed to mention. Also critically important was Indy Black Pride, the existence and professionalism of whose organizers I think had an important effect on Steve Talley.

Chris Douglas | May 10, 2006 9:06 PM

I would also add Jeff Miner and his meetings conducted in ecumenical spirit with legislators in 2000.