Today's "Read the Fine Print" rally at the Statehouse was a success, I think. About 500-600 people gathered at the Statehouse rotunda to demand that Indiana's LGBT citizens get the same rights as other Hoosiers. Indiana Equality and HRC sponsored today's event and I remember seeing tables for Citizens for Civil Rights, Indy Rainbow Chamber, INTRAA, Indiana Action Network, Indiana Youth Group, PFLAG, Pride of Indy marching band, Stop the Amendment, and ICON.
IAN, PFLAG and IYG all teamed up for the rally. We shared table space amongst the three groups and our table was busy! Our message was all about brain drain - we were made up several high school and college students, IAN members and PFLAG moms and dads. A large group of students from IU also joined in as we targeted Speaker of the House Pat Bauer as the legislator we wanted to talk to. After all, he's in charge of the House - and that's where SJR-7 is going...
The kids wanted to tell Speaker Bauer that they would be "brain drain" if this amendment passes in Indiana. They already see Indiana as a backwards unprogressive state since there's no civil rights for gays and lesbians, no hate crimes laws and now right-wing lawmakers want to take away our abilities to get married, have a civil union, get domestic partner benefits, inherit, be protected by domestic violence laws, or see our dying spouse in the hospital without a stack of legal documents. The PFLAG parents came along because their LGBT children had all left the state as soon as they could. They could testify to brain drain. Indiana's "hoosier hospitality" had - literally - driven their children out of state.
Unfortunately, the House went into caucus meetings just as the rally ended. IE and HRC had spent a lot of time and energy training volunteers to lead the folks to their respective legislators only to get the door shut in their faces. Our groups quickly gathered and decided we would go to where the Democrats were caucusing and try to get Speaker Bauer to come out and talk with us. We marched there and started chanting, "Pat! Pat! Come out and talk!" Unfortunately, the Democrats weren't even in there. We walked up to the Speaker's office to continue the chant for a short while. Up at the Speaker's office the number of participants swelled larger.
The Speaker wasn't in his office obviously but it let folks get out some of the frustrations they felt at being denied their ability to speak to their legislator about something that affects them so directly and negatively. I encouraged everyone to leave a note for the Speaker to tell him how they felt about SJR-7 and include their names and phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Hopefully Speaker Bauer will follow up with the citizens that left him some heart-felt messages.
It is such an empowering experience to see so many people coming together to support the civil rights of an oppressed minority. While the rally had 600 people there - each one of them has a family. They are important. The right-wingers are not just hurting the folks at the rally - they're attacking the families of each person who attended. We're no threat to the legislators - same-sex marriage is already against the law. There's never been a same-sex marriage in Indiana. Some couples challenged the law in court and lost. They appealed. And lost.
And yet these hypocrites claim "family values" as a catch-phrase to defend against an attack that never comes. And yet, catchy slogans are never enough for long so they're stepping it up with this amendment which not only bans same-sex marriage, but civil unions too. It can take away domestic partner benefits as a similar amendment did in Michigan. (As Brandt Hershman - author of SJR-7 - attempted to do in 2004 with a separate amendment.) It can void domestic violence laws like it did in Ohio. It has so many dramatic reasons to vote against it, that it's a no-brainer for every Democrat AND Republican if they could just put the darn "Ooooh. Gay People. Icky!" mentality behind them.
I continue to hope. And I'll continue to protest as they attempt to strip away our rights - because all citizens are equal: even us.
(Pictures I took on my cell phone after the jump. Anyone that wants to get me a digital camera would make the Christmas card list!)
UPDATE: The Indy Star article says only 300 people came to the rally, but I know that there were 400 seats and they were all taken. There were over 100 folks standing around the edges and the balcony. The comments section of the article is absolutely horrible. The bigoted and homophobic comments are absolutely overwhelming with the sheer hatred.