Sheila S. Kennedy

Friends and Enemies

Filed By Sheila S. Kennedy | March 01, 2006 10:43 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

Editor's note: Advance Indiana started this dialogue with a post entitled, "The Word Turns Back On Carson--Endorses Kiser.

As many readers of this blog know, I write a monthly column for the Word, a Midwestern gay newspaper. I really like the editor, although I often find myself in disagreement with positions he takes, and/or with his reasons for taking those positions. This is emphatically such a time, and while my next column will set out the reasons for my dissent, it won't appear until March. So with your indulgence, I'm using this post to explain my concerns.

The movement for gay rights is at a critical juncture. There is considerable progress; but there is also a worrisome amount of backlash. All three branches of government are controlled by people who are hostile to gay civil rights--let alone gay marriage. On these issues, as with many other national issues, America at a tipping point. We can go forward, or backward.

In such an environment, it would seem prudent to reward and support those who--sometimes at considerable personal risk--have stuck their necks out to stand up for equality and human dignity. In Indianapolis, one of those people has been Congresswoman Julia Carson--and I find it inexplicable that a gay newspaper would endorse her primary opponent.

Not only has Julia consistently and visibly supported legislation important to the gay community, she has used her considerable political capital when she didn't have to get involved. When timid Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council voted with the GOP to defeat an amendment to the City's Human Rights Ordinance--an amendment that would have extended protection against discrimination to gays, lesbians and transgendered citizens--Julia called them in and told them to do the right thing or answer to her. The amendment passed. Without her support, it wouldn't have.

She has also been consistently supportive of local gay organizations. I remember one fundraiser that she lent her name to and attended, knowing that it would be widely covered on television, despite the fact that her opponent that year had made her support for "the gay agenda" a campaign issue. That's what we used to call "walking the walk."

I can only assume that the Word decided to support her primary opponent because he is a gay man. But it is a profound mistake to assume that people who share an identity will also share political and social goals. I am Jewish, and I can assure my readers that I share very few positions with Senator Joseph Lieberman.

I remember many years ago, when some of us "women's libbers" created an organization called the Women's Political Caucus. Its mission was to support women's rights and especially women candidates. In the legislature at the time was a female state senator who consistently voted for conservative Christian "values" that had the effect of perpetuating discrimination against women. Redistricting had thrown her into a primary battle with a pro-choice, progressive male legislator. The Women's Political Caucus (properly) endorsed the man.

When we engage in "identity politics"--supporting people because they are members of our "tribes"--we are perpetuating the attitudes that support inequality. If gays don't support their friends, they deserve their enemies.

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I agree. I will continue to give Julia my support.

Found on Gary Welsh's blog tonight:

This will not be pretty. But, what is being done to our community right now, from some of our own, is not very pretty either.

Before I begin, I want to respond to this statement made on Gary Welsh's blog Wednesday:

"Ted Fleischaker said...
Sorry, Gary and the other nay-sayers but my phone's been ringing off the hook with people saying "it's about time" Julia had an openly gay challenger and she was retired by the voters."

I am appalled by what is obviously a bold-faced lie! I challenge Mr. Fleischaker to PROVE he received just one call call for Congresswoman Carson's 'retirement'! From ANYONE, but especially from someone in our community!

I'd also like to respond to Anonymous, who wrote in response to Gary Welsh's notation that Kizer's first campaign manager was "not favored by some Democratic Leaders", and that he believed Gary Welsh's reliable sources "aren't very reliable", and then said "you should get second opinions or at least 2 confirmations of the facts before posting your article".

I write anonymously, too, so please consider my input to be about as reliable as the other anonymous poster, whom I'll call "Mr. Anonymous". My anonnymity is for my own protection. However, if anyone wants to check the facts and go public at the expense of the campaign manger and Mr. Kiser, feel free. Just as Gary Welsh chose to kindly do, I choose not to embarrass Kiser or his now-former campaign manager either. However, one could easily learn about Kiser's campaign manger's checkered past and about his alleged mismanagement of past campaigns, or about the allegations of campaign funds theft during the last election cycle. If Mr. Anonymous actually knows anyone in the Democratic Party, he should have no trouble finding 'reliable sources' and/or being able to "confirm the facts". Enough said. Thank you, Gary, for handling the matter in a professional and ethical manner.

It's notable that Kiser's campaign manger has chosen to fade away, and that before doing so, he released a scathing letter to the LGBT community calling Kiser, among other things, a liar.

But that's all water under the bridge now, though not a good start for Mr. Kiser's campaign (A testament to his lack of experience and savvy. Do we want that kind of person as our congressman?)

As for Ted Fleischaker and his Word newspaper, sadly he's chosen to turn his back on our community. Even-though Fleischaker has now squandered whatever shred of credibility he may have ever possibly enjoyed in our community, in doing so, he has harmed our community more than perhaps anyone in modern memory. Many posters have already pointed out the many reasons his endorsement is a bad thing. But I want to add what I think may be the very worse thing. What kind of message does Fleischaker's endorsement of Kiser, or any other carpet-bagger -- AND ESPECIALLY A GAY ONE, send to our friends? What must Scott Keller be thinking right now? Does he wonder if the Indianapolis gay community has any conscience? Does he wonder if we even know what loyalty is all about? Does he wonder if his support of the HRO, and the death threats he received, were worth it now? Do other moderate Republicans look at Ted's endorsement and believe it to be on behalf of our community? Does it mean that any moderate Republicans, who may have begun to feel somewhat comfortable with the possibility of supporting our community (for example in the next LEGISLATIVE SESSION!!) are now scared to death and will pull their necks back into their shells when we need them more than ever?

And, in addition to Julia Carson, what about our other Democratic friends, including county and state leadership?! What must Pat Bauer be thinking? Or Ed Mahern? These are people we'll NEED in the next state legislative session. The quality of our lives may depend on their support!!

Fleischaker probably did not sell out our community because of a few ad buys by Kiser. No. I suspect he sold out because he's so insecure that anyone who, gratuitously or otherwise, strokes his ego gets his support.

And, sadly, he's apparently so clueless that he truly does not understand the implications of his actions.

Now's the time to send a statement to Congresswoman Carson. It's time to send a statement to other elected officials -- on both sides of the aisle -- whose support we'll DESPERATELY NEED this next year -- a statement that shows them that our community supports them and their support for us, and that they can count on our unwavering gratitude. We do not support carpet-baggers like Kiser, and we do not support the Word, or any other businesses within our community who do.

It's time to step up to that next plateau -- to move up a notch. Our community has grown a lot in the last two years, and we deserve a better gay newspaper now. The time has come. Ted needs to step aside. The national embarrassment our community has had to endure because of the 'back-water' image the Word has given us all these years is bad enough. But now, Ted's sellout of our community and his slap in the face to Julia Carson, the best friend our community has EVER had, is unconscionable.

Every advertiser who spends money running their ads in the Word is telling Congresswoman Carson that she is unworthy of our gratitude for her decades of service to our community. That they support Ted Fleischaker's slap in the face to Congresswoman Carson. That they purposely support and join in Ted's efforts to set our community back by 20 years.

I call for a boycott of every advertiser who buys ads in the Word! I urge people to call Talbott Street, Greg's/Op's, 501, Unicorn Club, and every local and national advertiser in the Word, and to let them know that we're organizing a boycott of their business or service if it continues to run ads in the Word.

I urge someone with web skills to set up a website or blog which can serve as the virtual headquarters for this boycott. That website or blog should contain the full name and contact information of every advertiser in the Word, along with a statement urging anyone who reads it to call, fax, email or otherwise contact the advertisers to tell them they're boycotting that company until it pulls it ads from the Word.

I urge a campaign to distribute flyers inside the city's LGBT establishments telling customers that we expect the establishment to pull all it's advertising from the Word, and that if it does not, these customers need to stay home. If bar-goers stayed home just two weekends, the gay/lesbian bars in this city would quickly pull their ads.

This is no joking matter. This is no longer about Ted and his ego and his paper. This is serious. His hideous actions negatively impact the LIVES of all of us in the LGBT community, and they even more viciously impact the lives of every LGBT Hoosier child whose yet to come out.

Tell Julia Carson how much you love her. How much we all love her. Tell other elected officials -- on both sides of the aisle -- how much we value their support. Tell them that we, as a community, understand loyalty. Prove it to them.

Anonymous and mad as hell!

Jeff Newman | March 2, 2006 6:30 AM

I posted a "comment to the comment" on Advance Indiana:

Whew, Anonymous and Mad as Hell! It is interesting that we post anonymously out of fear of reprisal from the Vindictive One (mine was the byrd cage lining comment above).

Well, I'm coming out, and I'm sure you'll see a nice trashing of me and GayIndy.Org in the next edition of the Word. Frankly, I couldn't care less.

The Word is a negative force in our community. It serves a very narrow constituency, and unfortunately, it's a constituency that doesn't show particularly well in the community at large.

To say that the Word represents Indy's GLBT community would be like picking up one of those swinger magazines at a Strip Club on Shadeland Ave. and suggesting that it is representative of the local mainstream community.

In addition, The Word is poorly written, and regularly engages in false accusations and personal attacks (not to mention the ridiculous gossip column in the back, which attempts to raise bartenders and barflies to pseudo-celebrity status by discussing their post last-call-for-alcohol activities).

The Word is an outright embarrassment to the local GLBT community, and one can only hope our straight allies realize that it is the product of an individual and does not reflect the values of the community at large.

Jeff Newman
Webmaster, GayIndy.Org

In my comment above, I should have pointed out that the Word does have one bright spot: Sheila Kennedy's always wonderful and thought-provoking column.

It is the one thing that stand out from the drivel and mudslinging, and it's pretty much the only reason I've picked up a copy of the Word in quite some time.

Marla Randolph Stevens | March 2, 2006 7:15 AM

Those who know how often Sheila and I have butted heads will appreciate the significance of that I applaud her piece and share her support of Rep. Carson.
Think about it, if both of us who so often see things differently are thinking the same things...

I sincerely hope that everyone who shares our view on this will tangibly show their support for the Carson campaign either through donations, volunteer work, or both.

There's an old saying that "Ya dance with them what brung ya." Well, Rep. Carson, where our local civil rights ordinance is concerned, is definitely one of those "what brung us" and, as far as I'm concerned, hers is the name on my dance card. Hope she's the one on yours, too.

P.S. If what I'm suspecting about Kris Kiser is true, you won't end up feeling like you need a good shower if you stand with Rep. Carson but you might if you stand with Kiser. After all, he's already been caught in two 'exaggerations' and, where there's smoke...

As much fun as it would be to boycott the word's advertisers (I already boycott the "newspaper" itself) it would be better to set up a news website that could compete with the Word, give space for his advertisers to make better choices, and provide real, tangible info and opinions to the GLBT community in Indiana.

I know I've suggested that IE pursue some different action alert alteratives. But maybe something like a online newspaper (in the traditional sense of newspaper) might work equally well.

Come to think of it, could become something like that.

Gary Leinbach | March 18, 2006 10:46 AM

Question do you know of any other gay candidates or actually elected official?
I only know of one other in Indiana. Just curioous and want to compare notes. I also agree with your
P.S. I agree with your Carson/Kiser issue