Bil Browning

We lost the battle

Filed By Bil Browning | January 31, 2007 10:41 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Brandt Hershman, Eric Miller, fundamentalists, IAN, ICON, Indiana Action Network, Jesus MCC, local politics, Micah Clark, SJR-7, Tim Lanane

It's taking me a while to write this post. I've started it half a dozen times by now. I even did a couple other posts, while I was trying to "settle in." Nothing that I have to say - and trust me, there's a lot - seems to want to flow out of my fingers in a coherent style. So maybe this is how I'll do it... Just a conversation between you and I instead of trying to make it sound like something you'd get from the Star. I just can't do it. It's too personal - I am biased and not feeling particularly journalistic.

I'm hyped up. I'm depressed. I'm angry and hurt. So I hope you understand that I'm telling it as I see it. Or should that be "saw it?"

We lost the battle folks. We did. But we expected it - with seven Republicans and only four democrats, we never had a chance. Just like the Battle of Little Bighorn, our community went down fighting. Once again, we took it on the chin and got back up. Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR-7) was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate for approval this morning. It passed on a party line vote of seven Republicans to four Democrats.

Things finally got started around 9:20am. Both sides presented a little over an hour of testimony. The homophobes got to go first and Senator Brandt Hershman led the charge. (Ed note: I deleted a couple sentences here. I should have double checked and caught this error. Sorry!)

During the question and answer section of his presentation, Senator Tim Lanane asked Hershman point blank what the "legal incidents" of marriage were. Hershman stuttered and stammered and tried really hard to find a piece of paper that had them listed on it. He never did find it though, but he did promise to send it along as soon as he did. (Of course, this is an improvement over 2005 when he finally had to admit that he didn't know what the "legal incidents" of marriage were at all. That time he didn't even go through the charade of looking for a paper.) He also ended up admitting after pressure from Sen Lanane that he didn't know if civil unions would be permitted under this amendment. So let me spell this out for you - Senator Hershman doesn't even understand his own amendment - which will affect thousands of Hoosier lives on a daily basis. He hasn't got a clue.

After Hershman spoke they ran through the usual litany of homophobic bigots that populate these supposedly secular gay bashings. Chris Stovall (Alliance Defense Fund) flew in from Arizona to try and explain the amendment to the senators. Apparently they couldn't find anyone locally that could explain the damn thing either.

Next up came Jim Bopp, a Terre Haute attorney that's a nationally known far-right agitator. In fact, Matt Tully writes today that Bopp will be joining Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as "Special Advisor on Life Issues." (He aint talking laundry, parking tickets and running late for work either.) This guy was really rude. He was combative when Sen Lanane asked him some questions about the second part of the amendment even going so far as "We do know how to write an amendment that will bind you, the legislature."

I have to admit, I tuned out around this time. My blood pressure was up, my temples were throbbing and they all start to blend together - one far right fundamentalist after another. The list of religious zealots included (in order) Micah Clark (American Family Association of Indiana), Pat Schneider (Eagle Forum), Glenn Tebbe (Indiana Catholic Conference), Sue Swayze (Indiana Family Action), and Walter Brown (Indiana Family Institute). Then came Rev Andy Hunt (Body of Christ Community Church and Director of Indiana Family Institute).

This guy was completely over the top. He actually called us "perverts." He gave a big speech full of references to God, was very offensive and is one huge reason why Tony Dungy shouldn't be raising money for this guy's organization. If the mainstream media gets a clip of Rev Andy saying anything like he did today, the Coach would be so utterly embarrassed that no Superbowl trophy could help. Eric Miller from Advance America was last - and spent literally maybe 2 minutes at the podium. He contributed a "Yeah. Me too." and that was about it.

The most interesting part was that the other side spent their whole time responding to our arguments. They were completely on the defense - as versus beating me over the head with arguments about how immoral and godless I am. This time they brought lawyers to defend against the objections we've raised. We have to keep up the pressure!

After that our side took the stage. Our line up was:

  • Walter Botich (Stop The Amendment)
  • Mary Ann Cantrell (Former state senator Louie Mahern and former state rep Ed Mahern's mother. One of her other children is gay.)
  • Scott Keller (Republican Indianapolis City-County Councilor)
  • Mark Sniderman (Jewish Community Relations Council)
  • Kerry Blomquist (Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
  • Jeff Newman (Indianapolis Rainbow Chamber of Commerce - former bilerico contributor)
  • Rabbi Mira Wasserman (Congregation Beth Shalom)
  • Eric Kanagy (Goshen business owner)
  • Judy Epp (Owen County Senior Center)
  • Kristina Kates (National Association of Social Workers)
  • Rev Thomas Kryder-Reid (Trinity Episcopal Church)
  • Lettie Oliver (AFSCME Council 62)

Our best speakers - far and away - were Mark Sniderman and Kerry Blomquist. Mr. Sniderman's testimony was riveting and compelling. (Look for it as my "Quote of the Day" for tomorrow.) Ms. Blomquist was also fascinating as she took the legislators step by step through how the amendment would negatively affect domestic violence laws in Indiana. A few other supporters from the community spoke at the end, but weren't part of the formal presentation. bilerico contributor Chris Douglas was one of the speakers.

Senators Lanane and Broden tried to amend the resolution, but both amendments failed along that damn party line vote - 7 to 4. Senator Steele asked the pertinent question that I was waiting for. "Will this set the amendment back?" In other words, if we agree with your amendment and vote for it, will this take this off the 2008 ballot? (That's when it would go in front of the citizens for a vote. *gasp* It's also the same year that the governor and president are elected. Coincidence? I don't think so.) Senator Lanane responded that it would indeed set back the amendment, but perhaps it was best that we be deliberative about amending our constitution. Sen Steele brushed him off though. If it wouldn't make '08, he wasn't interested - no matter the damage just described to him.

Then came the fun part.

Pastor Jeff Minor from Jesus MCC church and Dan Funk of Interfaith Coalition on Non-discrimination (ICON) led a group of LGBT Christians in singing "We Shall Overcome." They stood up right before the final vote and started singing the civil rights theme and a few minutes later got thrown out by the committee chair. It was personally satisfying to see all the State Police standing behind me right before the vote (since I wore my IAN shirt) when Jeff and Dan stood up and started singing. The cops didn't realize what was going on for a good couple clicks.

After the Jesus MCC folk got ejected, the vote continued. With each vote in favor of SJR-7, we booed and hissed and jeered. I got about four "boos" out before I got snatched up by the collar by a state policeman and asked to leave. I was quoted in the Indy Star about it:

State police escorted the protesters out.

Bil Browning of Indianapolis, president of Indiana Action Network, said police told members of the group that they "had spent the hearing being nice (and asked) why did we have to ruin it in the end."

"The reason," he said, "is because we are under attack. The time for niceties is over."

I see that as of right now the story has 298 comments. As I scan the front page of comments I can see stuff that ranges from:
"Hey Browning...You want to get cocky..Come confront the overwhelming majority of the people of this state who want you GONE, tough guy...Why should a church have to marry you if its against their beliefs? because you think they are "mean"??? Screw you..Go ruin another state..."

"Hey genius, it is not about church marriage-- it's about having the same fundamental rights as anyone else in this state. Bless you, Bil Browning, for your (and IAN's) efforts to fight SJR7."

I hit refresh to see how many comments were there so I lost the comment that called me a "whiny pussbag." I thought that one was classy. :)

Personally, love me or hate me - just keep talking about SJR-7. Tell others the problems with the amendment and how it could hurt you and your family. Tell your stories. Talk to legislators, of course, but talk to your neighbors, families, co-workers, and strangers in the grocery store. We have to get the state talking about this. Now. Or more days will feel like this one did.

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Prime Minister Pete Nice | January 31, 2007 11:09 PM


Posting from D.C. I'm trying to follow this debate--if one can call it that. Would you mind writing a post that outlines what will likely happen next with regard to SJR-7? What are its prospects for passage and who will be the key players going forward? Thanks for your consideration. -pmpn

A lot of emotion, and it's appreciated, but...

the real battle is, and always was, across the hall in the House. Pace yourself. We'll be lucky to get 15 total votes in the Senate.

I like the Overcome anthem, but, fair warning: there are many, many African-Americans I know who consider the use of that song for causes other than theirs, to be somewhat irritating.

And the Black Caucus members aren't totally on board with our cause anyway.

Tred lightly, but tred with the truth, as you have been.

(How is the tipline coming?)

Thanks for the report, and thanks to IAN and the others for representing us. But I think this more of a skirmish than a battle. The House, now that's the battle.

And for "Prime Minister Pete Nice" - SJR-7 must pass unaltered in two successive legislatures by both the senate and house and then it can go for a to a vote of the people. So having passed in the previous legislature, it must now be passed by the senate and the house of this legislative session (simple majorities, I believe). Then it goes up for a vote by the people in Nov. 2008.

The big question is if it will pass the house or even get out of committee there. If it doesn't then it's dead and has to be renewed again by the next legislature. There it must pass and then pass again in the succeeding legislature before going to a vote of the people. So if the house doesn't pass it, it may be 2012 or even later before it could get to a vote of the people again.

Lynn, with all due respect, I'd say we lost the "battle" - but we haven't lost the war. :) That was the saying I was thinking of when I wrote the piece.

Also, it's come to my attention that while Glenn Tebbe was on the list of speakers in favor of SJR-7, he didn't actually speak. Told you I was tuned out at that part! *grins*

I know this post is long, so thanks for reading all the way through it. It might be a little melodramatic, but it just pisses me off so much to see these people stripping away our rights so callously and with total disregard to the people who will be hurt by their vote.

Meredith Richmond (PFLAG) | February 1, 2007 8:50 AM

You left out the six citizens that signed up in the hall to speak. The chair let us anti folks go 15 min. over our time. The pro side had no citizens sign up to speak.

I drove from Battle Ground, near Lafayette, to make my little speech.

Meredith, and all others--watch for the House scheudle on this (sure to pass) Senate bill, and return! I think the audience will be a little more receptive.


Thanks for chronicling the committee meeting and fighting the good fight. Don't give up. My family won't.


Meredith, No slight intended. I wasn't able to jot down everyone's name that spoke from the floor. I knew Chris spoke because I know Chris so well from the blog and working together in the past. Please accept my apology for not recognizing you as well.

Ellen Andersen | February 1, 2007 8:47 PM

I just wanted to make a small correction. The fabulous Kerry Hyatt Blomquist spells her name with one 'o,' not two.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is a homophobe.

No, but everyone who says I'm not equal to my straight neighbor is...

Marla R. Stevens | March 6, 2007 11:31 AM

Posted on the Star's Forum:

Indiana is well on its way to proving that the majority of its people are too stupid to tell the difference between religious and civil marriage and/or too venally bigoted to care that they're shooting themselves in the foot in the process.

The people who will pay for it most are the poorest among them, particularly seniors and impoverished single mothers and their children but that won't matter as long as they can lie to themselves legislatively that their marriages are somehow better than those of their gay fellow citizens.

It's about smug het supremacism -- a baseless piece of fiction on numerous counts -- different only from that of the white sheeted crowd's in methodology of lashing out, not by degree of vehemence.

Fools, we'll still be able to religiously marry in Hoosierland, just as we always have been able to. The Indiana Constitution does not trump the First Amendment of the U.S. one nor would even the Federal Marriage Amendment repeal it.

Way to go, legis-bigots -- backwards, that is.

-- Mrs. Marla Randolph Stevens
Religiously married to Mrs. Phyllis Rowe Stevens since 1984.
Civilly married to Mrs. Phyllis Rowe Stevens since 2003 -- a civil marriage that may not be recognized in the U.S. but which was lawfully entered into and valid in a large and growing portion of the civilized world nonetheless.

Marla R. Stevens | March 6, 2007 11:41 AM

P.S. No one owns "We Shall Overcome". Sing it, sing patriotic songs, sing loudly until your vocal cords beg for relief, then keep on singing.

The people who would be pissed of by it weren't going to stand with you to begin with. They're the heirs to the ones who tried to suppress their own movement's brilliant gay leadership at the time. If nothing else, that leadership and the many non-black gay people like Barbara Deming who put ourselves on the line for black civil rights earned ourselves and our people the right to use that song and others from that era.

Sing on.