Bil Browning

DNC condemns Indiana anti-gay campaign mailing

Filed By Bil Browning | October 29, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Andy Schemenaur, anti-gay, Democrats, gay marriage, Indiana Democratic State Committee, same-sex marriage

On Tuesday I posted to Bilerico-Indiana about an anti-gay flier sent by the Indiana Democratic State Committee on behalf of State Representative candidate Andy Schemenaur. The mailing, paid for by the state party, called for "a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as existing only between one man and one woman."

democratic logo.pngThis flies directly in the face of the state party platform, the national Democratic Party platform, public statements from the Democratic presidential ticket, and recent efforts by the state party to kill a state amendment. Since the flier had been passed around via e-mail for a couple weeks with nary a word from any local LGBT or party leadership, I called on them to stand up and publicly condemn the flier. Soon after I posted, the story got wings nationally.

I'm proud to say that today not only has the local Stonewall Democrats made their "displeasure" known, but so have the National Stonewall Democrats and the DNC. Statements, pictures of the flier and more after the jump.

Official Statements


The first organization to respond was the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In a statement to editor Mike Rogers, the DNC rejected the campaign material while reminding voters of Barack Obama's differences with Schemenaur. Rogers is a former contributor to Bilerico Project.

"While this flier is disappointing, it's a reminder that while we have made great progress to ensure equal rights and protections under the law for every American, clearly there is still more education that is needed even within our party. But we cannot let this deter us from electing a democratic president.

A vote for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party is a vote for equal rights and protections under the law. Just last year, Indiana Democrats kept a discriminatory marriage amendment off the ballot. History shows that when we elect Democrats there is great progress toward equality and fairness, which is why we need to focus on electing Barack Obama our next President."

The National Stonewall Democrats also responded quickly to my request for a statement. Spokesman John Marble talked with me this morning about the flier and gave the following statement:

"The Indiana Democratic Party has been a good working partner with the LGBT community in the past. However, paying for any sort of anti-gay campaign piece is wrong. The Stonewall Democrats are working to resolve this situation."

Once the national organization had expressed concern about this unnecessary slap in the face of the LGBT community, the Indiana Stonewall Democrats also gave me a statement. Chapter Vice President Lori Morris gave me the official response from the local political group.

"The Indiana Democratic Party has worked hard to include the LGBT community as an important constituent group. We have an ongoing good working relationship within the Party. That said, we are not happy with these types of divisive mailers. We are making our displeasure known to the Party."

I tried to get a statement from the state Party about the flier before posting my first article with no success. Spokeswoman Lauren Smith asked for time to review the mailing before making a statement, but has never issued a statement on the Party's behalf. Rogers was also unsuccessful at getting an official statement from Smith.

When asked why the state party would print a document that could be construed as divisive, and if it stood by the mailers or would apologize for them, Indiana Democratic Party spokesperson Lauren Smith declined to comment.

Other local LGBT Advocacy groups have also remained strangely silent.

The Reality Is...

The reality is bleak. While I stress the importance of good communication often on Bilerico Project, this is - yet again - another case of the "circle the wagons" mentality that all too often infects organizations.

Sources tell me that more than likely the person who approved Schemenaur's mailing piece, didn't even see it. Instead, they probably saw an invoice and simply cut a check. Rather than admit their mistake and explain the process, the Party has apparently decided to clam up and hope the story blows over.

Local LGBT orgs, however, sat on the flier for weeks without uttering a peep. In fact, the flier was commonly circulated amongst political insiders and lobbyists. While I realize that the state Party is a dedicated friend to the LGBT community, our local organizations cannot hesitate to call them on the carpet for a bad decision.

Davis.jpgWhile we need a majority in the House of Representatives to keep another divisive marriage amendment off the table, Andy Schemenaur clearly states that he would support an amendment just as his opponent did (as shown in this Indiana Action Network poster from 2004). I don't doubt for an instant that the local groups condemn the mailing, but by not standing up and publicly denouncing the campaign piece, they are tacitly endorsing the occasional gay bashing in pursuit of a greater goal.

That is unacceptable.

This appears to be a simple case of oversight and miscommunication. If the Party had actually checked the mailings before paying the bill, they would have seen the glaringly obvious and nixed it. Unlike any other constituent group, it is still considered okay in some circles for Democratic politicians to smack the LGBT community around. The Party needs to be vigilant for just such occasions.

On the other hand, if the Party isn't doing it's due diligence, then our local LGBT organizations other than Stonewall Democrats need to be willing to point out problems and issues. If we can't count on our leadership to support our community, who can we trust?

It's time Indiana had a real statewide organization dedicated to LGBT rights and issues. We need to stop relying on lobbyists and backdoor friends with other priorities and closer friends. We need a group with full-time employees supported by the community, but currently donations to local groups is pitifully small.

Indiana's queer community needs to take a hard look at our future. If no one is giving our issues the diligence they deserve - neither organizations nor the Party - we have to take the bull by the horns. Many other states have equality organizations with paid staff and offices; we can do no less.

It's time for the Indiana LGBT community to stand together and organize the dedicated representation we deserve.


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Goodie, DNC denounced the ads. That's worth....what?

I expected promises of sanctions.

Personally, I'd like to see the state Party demand their money back from Schemenaur. But with no response from them, I can only assume that they won't do it.

Congratulations, Bil, on getting the concessions a apologies that you did. Unfortunately, I doubt that the voters in Schemenaur's district will ever hear a peep about this.

You and your chorts did, at least, show the state Democratic party that a few in the LGBT community have their eyes open for things like this, and will call them on it when things like this do happen. (Am I hopelessly cynical to expect that this won't be the last time?)

As for IE ... hey folks, you remember Indiana Equality, don't you? ... they just announced their Indiana Legislative Scorecard, and you can see it in PDF by CLICKING HERE.

Joshua Verbeke | October 29, 2008 7:54 PM

It amazes me that any organization would try to define marriage, let alone the "sanctity" of it. Sure, marriage is in the dictionary, but that doesn't mean the all-encompassing definition can be found in a book. The answer is obvious - anyone going into a state of union with another person defines what it is they are entering into. If the union is called a marriage, there should be rights and privileges for it. There should be no limitations on who can be in a marriage, or what gender their partner should be. The sanctity of marriage is being tarnished by those who attempt to assign a definition for all others. It's as horrible and funny as the definition of a family. Anyone have a normal family? That's what I thought.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 29, 2008 9:07 PM

Congratulations to Bil for having the guts to denounce one of the bigots running for his party.

But I'm afraid that the 'displeasure' of the Barney Frank Democrats, aka, Stonewall Democrats and the DNC just won't cut it. What's needed is the summary expulsion of everyone whose bigoted position on same sex marriage is undercutting our efforts to beat back the anti-LGBT propositions in California, Arizona and Florida.

Begin with Obama. Then work your way over to the ordained bigot who runs the DNC, Leah Daughtry and her boss Dean. Then add the Clintons, Barney Frank and Biden. Then add all the Democrats who voted for DOMA and DADT and to gut ENDA . Then…

But that’s not going to happen. However reasonably necessary it is it’s just a fantasy. You’re going to inherit a party run by those people and have to watch again and again as they pander, wheel and deal, and keep that bus of theirs gassed up and ready to run over us.

And while you inherit that Obama, if the racist vote is small, will inherit an economy in deep failure mode and a war he can’t win even if he uses a 50 year timetable of 'phased withdrawal'. The Middle East is seething with enraged anti-American patriots from Palestine to Pakistan.

Humpty Dumpty sat on Iraq. And Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan and soon Iran…
Humpty Dumpty is having a great fall…
All the president's missiles and all the president's servicmembers…
Can't put Humpty together again.

Bush is a Hoover Clone with Cheney playing Daddy Warbucks.
McCain is a Bush clone. He has no Daddy Warbucks… yet.
Obama is a Clinton clone (DOMA, DADT, NAFTA) with his own Daddy Warbucks, Colin Powell, attached at the hip.

Well, I think that's cool. We only win the game by winning one little point at a time.


But, well, at least we'll know now who's going to work against us in the general assembly.

Jon Winkleman | April 1, 2009 9:59 PM

How do you expel someone from identifying as a Democrat in the broad definition? If you are a member of the Democratic National Committee you can be expelled for working against the party or campaigning against the Democrat in the general election. However voters elect people not a party to office. Once in office that elected official is free to identify with and caucus with whatever party they want.

You really can't "expel" them. You can censure them which is what the State and National Democratic Party did. If the candidate is in a safely blue district and there is a comfortable majority in that legislative body the state party may hold it's financial support or mount a primary challenge.

However which ever party has the most self identified members gets to choose the committee chairs. This has greater impact than a single person's vote. Given the choice of punishing an anti-LGBT Democrat or keeping the chairs of legislative committees progressive Democrats, I'll sit on my hands till the landscape changes.

I'm personally glad the DNC is showing zero tolerance towards homophobia.

Also I've met Leah Daughtry on a number of occasions and I did not find her homophobic at all.