Bil Browning

Read the Fine Print rally a success

Filed By Bil Browning | February 19, 2007 5:50 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: direct action group, IAN, Indiana, Indiana Action Network, Indiana University, marriage, PFLAG, rally, SJR-7, Statehouse

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.

Click to enlarge the photos

These two photos show my favorite signs.

Indiana Youth Group brought a huge number of young adults to help work at the table and try to lobby the Speaker.

PFLAG also shared space with us at the table. We were on the sides of the large group of folks seated in the middle. All the seats were taken and it was overflow only.

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I viewed the audience frm several angles. There were some empty seats--maybe 3-5 per row.

The number who attended is not important, although I thought attendance was the lowest in the last few years.

The message was strong, if lengthy. Sound quality is never good in that hall. The minister who spoke was the best.

The attendance by many younger people was heartening.

I can see what the IYG kids are saying. An amendment like this would only add to the current ethos Indiana has, and that's the real thing that driving away the kids these days. I looked for the first college on the other side of the country that accepted me when i graduated from high school mainly because of the feel of this state. My sister and brother, who are both straight, felt the same way.

The IYG kids know more about fighting the brain-drain than Mitch does.

I have 50 or so photos on my Flickr account that are available for anyone to grab under Creative Commons License.

And I have video capture of the local news coverage of the event on my site...

I was very pleased with the turnout and all of the speakers were wonderful. It made me very happy to see the youth (our future brain drain) in attendance, and very unfortunate that our lawmakers couldn't find the time to speak to them or any of the other people that wanted to be heard. Oh wait, Lubbers was out there speaking to an angry crowd. LOVED THAT!!

Congrats to you all for the great turnout when I'm sure many would have preferred to stay inside home and warm.

One who SHOULD have stayed home was the Attention Freak with the "I'm ANAL about my rights" sign. With so many excellent groups represented, one would have thought that someone would have had the sense and nerve to tell him his sign, which was shown on Channel 6, was counterproductive to say the least. I'm sure someone is likely to respond with some Rebecca of Sunny Clueless Farm crap about "free speech," blah blah blah, but I've been around the movement for more than thirty years and I know the type who cares more about his or her attention than the real issue at hand affecting the larger group. His more accurate sign would have read, "I'm an asshole."

Allen J. Lopp | February 20, 2007 10:07 PM


The rally was absolutely better than not doing anything. And I realize the glass is always half-empty and half-full. I am very thankful for the full part of the glass and to everyone who attended. I'm thankful for all the effort that Indiana Equality and Human Rights Campaign put out to arrange and publicize this action.

Still, after driving 240 miles round-trip to attend, I must say that I was disappointed --- we have to do even better if we are to win this fight.

Toastmasters, Here We Come ...

I'm glad that the out-of-state speakers were brought in because, with the exception of the man from Lafayette who emceed the event (I believe he said he was an IE chair of some sort, and I'd love to give you his name, but apparently the IE website has not been updated with the current roster of officers), the in-state speakers all obviously needed some serious stage experience. If we have a voters' campaign to win in 2008, we'd better start developing good speakers now!

Where Were Our Black Brothers and Sisters?

I'm thankful that the African-American bishop from Connecticut was willing to come to Indiana. I went up to him and said so after the event, adding "We obviously need good speakers like you." He may take my comment any way he wants --- we need practiced speakers, and our side needs African-American speakers desparately.

I wish that IE and HRC had invited Robert Furgeson, or any other member of Indy Black Pride, to speak. Such a person might have brought a few Indy-resident African-Americans with him. But since Mr. Furgeson spoke last year, I guess having him again would be asking too much. Still I am disheartened that I could probably count the number of African-American attendees on my fingers. (No need to take off my shoes and engage my toes on this task.) Similarly, I did not see one word of Spanish in any of the publicity, so is it any surprise that there was no evidence of a Latino GLBT presence?)

I find myself being in the position of having to say something that is unpopular but somebody has to say it: Before the GLBT community in Indiana can be persuasive at demanding equality, we must create a community that offers equality internally. Our community, I am sad to say, still harbors a lot of covert racism and xenophobia, and the make-up of our GLBT organizations reflect that racism. (Bloomington is the only Indiana community I know of that is doing an effective ongoing job at even seriously trying to address racism, both inside the GLBT community and generally --- and my African-American friends tell me that Bloomington still has a long way to go.) We would do well as a community to consider that, like most votes these days, it is virtually impossible to win without the African-American vote.

Sour Grapes, Anyone?

I do not enjoy making these observations. I would much rather be in a position to observe that SJR-7 will never see the light of day, or that in a statewide vote we will coast easily to victory. But what a fairy tale! Victory will require the entire Indiana GLBT citizenry putting out intense hard work and all the courage we can muster. (And money! I presume IE deposited the check I donated last summer, which might have been sizeable for an individual but was a droplet in a statewide issue.)

But I do not see the existing organizations welcoming the efforts of the rank-and-file to join the fight. Instead, I get the impression that they want to do it all themselves --- and that is a recipe for defeat. You will delight me if you can convince me I am wrong on this point. (It has been years since I have heard of an IE meeting announced for attendance by the general GLBT constituency.)

Even if I am right about this, I'm not even sure that the existing organizations are the ones that I should be frustrated with. The GLBT community is like the nation as a whole --- we end up with the leaders we choose, allow, settle for and, thus, deserve. Like the nation, we are responsible as a whole to do whatever it takes to defend ourselves from outside threats.

The Indianapolis organizations may want to, but they cannot do it all themselves. In all the little podunks around this state, we need to get out of our closets and off our rear ends. Why are we having a rally once a year instead of GLBT community rallies throughout the state, one every month?

In my mind, yesterday's rally was a great success. For February. What rally are we going to stage in March?