Chris Douglas

Indiana's Broad Test of Character

Filed By Chris Douglas | January 19, 2007 10:40 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

(The following is posted to the First Republicans Forum primarily as a message to those beyond the glbt community, especially Republicans, who may be acquainted with me or Kathy Sarris as Republicans. Its principle audience is not the glbt community, for I would not wish to imply that there are not many in the community who have made sacrifices as great or greater.)

This generation's test of character has arrived, by which every Hoosier today will be judged by his or her posterity. This test applies as much to the thinking straight community as to the gay community, as much to the journalist and editorial writer as to the office holder, as much to a reader as a blogger, as much to the older business professional as to the young party staffer, as much to office of the township trustee as to the office of any legislator, City Councilor, Mayor, Governor, Auditor, Secretary of State or Treasurer, as much to the company president as to the office worker as to the chairman of the board, as much to Republican as Democrat, as much to the Catholic and Muslim as to the Protestant and Jew.

The question is this: As in days of old in Indiana and in Germany, and even as in today in Baghdad, a group of religious fanatics and political opportunists have combined together to whip up hysteria and to strip constitutionally from a vulnerable minority the fundamental guarantees of equal protection of the laws and religious freedom. Did you do everything in your power to protect a minority from this aggression? Or did you do nothing to stop this historic crime against the Constitution, lulled to believe that your fellow citizens would not suffer its dire consequences?

The Constitutional Question of Marriage and Its "Legal Incidents"

Section 23 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana: "The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens."

Sponsors of SJR7 , an amendment to the Constitution that would void the application of its equal protection clause to decent gay and lesbian citizens, would have you believe that the constitutional question at stake is whether gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry. That is not the constitutional question at stake.

The Constitutional question at stake is: Does the Constitution's guarantee to equal protection have any real value? Or can it be discarded whenever a minority is disliked enough? Is this minority condemned ever after to be alienated from the equal protections of the law in Indiana, its households sacrificial, its relationships, its mutual dependencies and responsibilities forever legally asunder to grievous consequence?

The Test of Character

To every Hoosier who may be reading this, First Republican, reporter, State or Marion County or Allen Republican Party staffer, ambitious office holder, cautious politician, citizen, you are now entering into terrain that will define inexorably what kind of person you really are. No longer will you be able merely to judge as impolite and unsavory the organizations and politicians driving this amendment and distance yourself. Now that this attack approaches a second passage, you face personal judgment as well.

If you are straight and Republican especially, you may wonder how important the stakes are and how some of us Republicans in the gay community can hold you to them. We can because we have personally faced the test ourselves... in the past and now. Kathy Sarris of Aesop's Tables, for instance, faced the test when, after speaking up on behalf of the gay community, she was physically, personally, brutally, violently and sexually attacked. I faced the test when I outed myself publicly by founding a local chapter of Indiana Log Cabin Republicans 10 years ago, and was thereafter fired from the perfect job for me, deep in graduate school debt and my finances not to recover for a decade. (I have no regrets.) And we faced the test again when we both led the gay community's opening salvo at the statehouse press conference in January 2005, producing threats to Kathy's business and a loss of business for me. We reasoned that we could not ask anything of you if we were not prepared to sacrifice our own measures of strength.

We have survived our own tests, and can go to our graves knowing that we are doing as much as humanly possible. More relevant, when we speak against this aggression, we are now merely the usual suspects. Nothing more we have to say is "news. " But we do have this left to say: If you don't begin personally to speak, and loudly, this aggression will succeed, your fellow citizens will continue to suffer, and your era of Indiana and Republican Party history will be stained in the thoughts of your children and grandchildren, just as it was in an earlier era stained by the success of the Klan in the Republican Party and in Indiana's halls of power.

The test is now upon you. You can no longer look back on Germany of the 1930's and tut tut as if that culture and its pressures and biases are foreign to your understanding. Now you must ask yourself: What kind of German would you have been? Would you have been the kind of German who thought Jews impolite merely for being? Would you have been the kind of German who, while uncomfortable with the bigotry of the National Socialists, felt that economic progress required your acquiescence? Would you have been the kind of German who commiserated with your Jewish neighbor but did nothing, really, to stop their victimization and marginalization? Would you have been the kind of German who remained silent for fear of the personal or professional consequences of speaking up in defense of an unpopular minority? Would you have gone about your business, with only vague awareness of a monstrosity being perpetrated in your name, but feeling comfortable because it wasn't you yourself leading the aggression?

We've done as much as we can without you. What are you going to do to salvage this State, and your own role in its public life, from shame?

(From our Principles : FIRST REPUBLICANS BELIEVE in equal rights, equal protection, equal justice, equal opportunity and equal responsibilities for all people, regardless of race, religion, creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or national origin.
FIRST REPUBLICANS BELIEVE the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights is the bedrock of American freedom. The individual rights and freedoms established in federal and state constitutions must be protected from amendment and defended from encroachment.)

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You know, I read this when I first woke up and thought, "Wow. I really hope that Chris posts this to bilerico."

I have to say, Chris, that I think this is one of your best written pieces. I think every reader should send a link to this post to every Republican (or conservative Democrat) friend that they have.