Bil Browning

No marriage amendment for Indiana but the dollars flow on

Filed By Bil Browning | February 23, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: constitutional amendment, gay marriage, Indiana, Indiana Family Institute, marriage amendment, Veritas Rex

This is almost becoming old hat by now. There will be no marriage amendment voted on this year. The Indiana Family Institute is conceding defeat and while expressing "disappointment" at the Republican Senate leaders' decision not to bring the matter to a vote, they blame Democrat Pat Bauer for the whole mess. On the Veritas Rex blog's comment section, Bilerico-Indiana contributor Don Sherfick lays it out on the line for IFI Director of Policy Ryan McCann.

You cleverly misrepresented what the impact of the revised language had been in other states, notably Kentucky. Both Ryan and Tony Perkins were evasive concerning that issue in a published video interview with Bil Browning, and an attempt to remedy its effects in a delayed IFI FAQ on the amendment ended up contradicting some other things that your colleagues had been saying and arguing.

This piqued my curiosity so I decided to make a few phone calls; imagine my surprise to find out from a few Statehouse sources that Don was at least partially correct! In the video interviews I did with McCann, Perkins and IFI's Executive Director Curt Smith, it was patently obvious that they had no idea what they were talking about. Several state senators also smelled the unmistakable reek of bulls--t after the videos were e-mailed around the Statehouse and decided not to force the issue.

While it's great that I did my small part to keep another marriage amendment off the ballot here, there's another aspect of the amendment's death that I'd like to point out.

In fact, let's just get one simple fact out of the way immediately - a marriage amendment wasn't going to pass this year no matter what. I took some licks for saying last year that the LGBT community shouldn't be misled by Indiana Equality's amendment boogeyman. Fearmongering as fundraising is a despicable tactic. Period.

This year, IE sent out a couple of mass e-mails to their members concerning various legislative issues. One was an urgent call to action that the state senate was going to take up the amendment. At the bottom, of course, was a call for donations. The next day, out came a "Nevermind!" e-mail that said the senate wouldn't be addressing it. A few days after that even the Indiana Family Institute is announcing the death of the amendment. But how much money did IE raise off their "The sky is falling!" notice?

On the other hand, IFI was pulling the same tricks. Their e-mail blasts warned of the dangers of same-sex marriage and the downfall of civilization. If you didn't give big bucks to attend their dinner, support their favorite politicians or donate to the org directly, you can be sure queers will be throwing rice and bird seed all over the state! How much money did they raise off the amendment?

After I did my interview with Ryan McCann, he and I stood around chatting. Since we have a rather cordial relationship, I asked him what he thought the amendment's chances were. He admitted that the legislation had no chance whatsoever and wouldn't be going anywhere. Still, he continued, that wasn't going to stop IFI from pushing their agenda.

IE insiders also admitted that the amendment was DOA. With the Democrats in control of one half of the legislature, they were counting on House leadership to seal the deal for them. Curiously, instead of highlighting the rest of our issues (hate crimes law, non-discrimination law, etc) as the primary concern, IE folks stressed fundraising as the top priority.

You know, when I made those videos, getting paid for them was the least of my concerns - it was the result that mattered. So that leads me to my inevitable question...

When will Indiana Equality and the Indiana Family Institute both stop worrying so much about their fundraising instead of equality for Indiana's families?

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Julie Nemecek | February 24, 2009 8:11 AM

Perhaps we all should avoid using the names of the organizations in our blogging to avoid giving them extra fund-raising ammunition. Just a thought.

My comment on Pam's House Blend GLBT blog was the highest-rated in this thread:

This older straight guy has some good news: your suffering in the public arena is bearing fruit, as it did for blacks, only faster and with much less violence. See this Newsweek Poll showing a surge in support for gay marriage after Prop 8:

Ballot initiatives, with all their flaws, get issues on the table and relentlessly expose ignorance and prejudice. As the poll shows, everyone now knows gay people (growing up in the 50s and 60s I knew of none) and it's hard to hate your friends and cohorts for long.

Let me tell you my experience. Colorado in 1992 voted narrowly for Amendment 1 , banning gay rights laws like Boulder (where I live), Aspen and Denver have. (1 never went into effect, all courts ruling it unconstitutional.) Due to all the publicity, I examined my vague avoidance of gays, who I knew were all around Boulder. And i remembered where it came from: the first people I knew were gay had picked me up hitch-hiking around San Francisco when I was an 18-year old vagabond, and had their hands all over me, dumping me on the highway when i resisted. I realized few gays were like that, relaxed, and now enjoy hanging out with all kinds. (Living in a student area helps.)

One of my gay friends (since 1995) is now also my Congressman, Jared Polis, the first male elected to Congress as openly gay. Jared last month announced on radio (see that he will introduce a bill for BETTER and NATIONAL ballot initiatives later this year. Don't worry! Congress will protect their absolute federal legislative power from being shared with citizens, as they did in 1907 and 1977. But it will start another important and educational conversation. (Jared was the youngest to serve as Chair of the Colo. Board of Education.)

Jared is wicked smart, and calm as Obama. He's thought about this since before I met him in 1995, which happened because we share an interest in government BY the people.

Of course the initiative process needs improvement, and solutions have been generally agreed on for decades. But Legislators NEVER implement them, only making the process harder Some tried to start an initiative to repeal Amend. 1 but realized they didn't have the $ and organization. You can see some of the accepted reforms needed at and and

Ballot initiatives are the origin of most reforms, such as women's suffrage (passed in 13 states before Congress went along), direct election of Senators (4 states), publicly financed elections (passed by initiative in 6 of 7 states with them), medical marijuana ( in 9 of 13 states) and increasing minimum wages (in all 6 states that tried in 2006). See for more examples and references. The media have seized on the problem initiatives. They generally kiss up to politicians.

Switzerland has had national initiatives since 1891 and vote 3-7 times a year. One result by now is that the Swiss read more newspapers than any other country. Empowering people gives an incentive to educate oneself! You could complain that the Swiss didn't get women's suffrage until the '70s, but they then quickly passed their version of the Equal Rights Amendment, which still hasn't passed here.

Please recall that it was representative government which made sodomy and oral sex a criminal offense. Checks and balances are good. So most people want direct AND representative democracy. Except politicians, the people who buy them, and the lobbyists between.

"The cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy." -John Dewey

"Participation, that's the salvation of the human race." -Pete Seeger.

I signed Pete up last year as an endorser of the National (ballot) Initiative for Democracy, led by famed former Senator Mike Gravel. YOU can participate at

Well, first point is to give you an atta-boi for your work, Bil. Even if you did get paid.

Second, it seems everyone is strapped for money. I know I am after having been in the health-care system for 9 months. So I don't blame them. It's just that you'd think you might hear some straight talk (if you know what I mean).

Still got that Wabash River floodplain swampland....