Guest Blogger

Congressmen Donnelly and Ellsworth don't care about us

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 04, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Donna Pandori is a transplant from upstate New York and often wonder why the heck she moved to Indiana.

dp.jpgH.R. 1913 Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed, but not with the help of Congressman Joe Donnelly or Congressman Brad Ellsworth.

In fact Congressman Donnelly and Ellsworth are the only Indiana Democrats who voted against H.R. 1913. To put it in further perspective Donnelly and Ellsworth broke from their party line as 90% of their Democratic colleagues voted in favor of passing H.R. 1913.

H.R. 1913 in summary:

  • Drops the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity
  • Adds sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the law
  • Makes grant money and resources available to local communities when a hate crime has been committed
  • Allows federal authorities to assist in investigations if needed.

Why did they vote No?

I imagine their arguments against H.R. 1913 are pretty much the same as their arguments (here and here) were against the 2007 version of The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592). Which leads one to wonder...

  • Was their vote against H.R. 1913 a matter of personal convictions or
  • Did they succumb to the rhetoric and fear tactics used by the Republican Party or
  • Are they pandering to their conservative base or
  • Did they vote "safe" because the House had the votes for passage?

Where do Donnelly and Ellsworth stand on legislation important to the GLBT community? The 2008 Congressional Scorecard released by the Human Rights Campaign measuring the support for equality in the 110th Congress provides insight. Out of 100 possible points Donnelly and Ellsworth both scored a meager 30 [PDF]. This is less than mediocre.

Certainly an eye opener and wake up call.

Is this the best we can expect from Donnelly and Ellsworth in the future? When it comes to human and civil rights there should be no compromise. Mediocrity on these issues is no guarantee those in the GLBT community who have supported Donnelly and Ellsworth in the past will continue to do so in the future.

Congressman Donnelly's canned response e-mail

May 1, 2009

Dear Ms. Pandori,

Thank you for contacting me about hate crimes legislation. I value your views, and your input helps me better represent Indiana's Second District in Congress.

All violent crimes are in some way born of hate, and I believe all should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of motive. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors do their best to punish violent criminals, but they cannot eradicate hate from our society. It is up to us-in how we raise our children and how we treat one another-to limit the impact hate has on our communities.

With this in mind, I voted against H.R. 1913, The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which passed the House of Representatives on April 29, 2009 by a vote of 249 to 175. If signed into law, this bill would expand the types of crimes and victims covered by federal hate crimes law, strengthen covered penalties, and provide grants to prosecute these hate crime provisions.

While I am not convinced that a federal hate crimes law would reduce the incidence of crime in our communities, Congress should play an active role in supporting the work of our police departments and prosecutors. That is why I support increasing funding for the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to help state and local law enforcement entities hire new prosecutors and pay for overtime, training and equipment, and why I have cosponsored legislation to reauthorize the Community-Oriented Policing (COPS) Program to put tens of thousands of additional police officers onto our streets.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to write, call or email me again if I can ever be of assistance. Also, if you would like to receive regular updates on my actions on your behalf in Congress, sign up for my e-newsletter, The Donnelly Dispatch, at

Joe Donnelly
Member of Congress

H.R. 1913 Indiana Congressional Votes

Voted YES:
Peter Visclosky [D IN-1] (202) 225-2461
André Carson [D IN-7] (202) 225-4011
Baron Hill [D IN-9] (202) 225-5315

Voted NO:
Mark Souder [R IN-3] (202) 225-4436
Stephen Buyer [R IN-4] (202) 225-5037
Dan Burton [R IN-5] (202) 225-2276
Mike Pence [R IN-6] (202) 225-3012
Joe Donnelly [D IN-2] (202) 225-3915
Brad Ellsworth [D IN-8] (202) 225-4636

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Lynn David Lynn David | May 4, 2009 8:49 PM

Well.... I think you expect too much. When I voted for Edwards I wasn't so much voting for a person who I knew would champion queer causes but one who wouldn't necessarily vote for bills which would be punitive towards us or be one who introduces bills meant to hurt us like his predecessor, Hostettler. In short having someone such as Edwards as representative of Indiana's eighth congressional district is the best that can be expected from the electorate here and now. Any more 'liberal' and we'd have that backlash which would put another Hostettler in the seat, dead set against us.... and that scares me more than Edwards not being 100% behind us.

Lynn -

Well. . . I think you mean Ellsworth not Edwards.

What are we talking about here? We’re talking about equality for all not equality for some. Is it a realistic expectation? I think so. As a community we are not asking for anything above and beyond what every U.S. citizen is guaranteed - equal rights.

Take the time to review the legislation they did not support. The message seems clear enough.

Voting against or not supporting bills such as The Military Readiness Act (DADT) and Employment Non-Discrimination Act penalizes the LGBT community.

Are their positions on these issues changeable? I don’t know. Does it matter as long as there are enough votes to pass legislation important to the GLBT community? That's a decision you have to make for yourself. The fear of something worse can leave one happy with the bone they're thrown.

There is still much work to be done in Indiana.

Lynn David Lynn David | May 5, 2009 11:16 PM

Ellsworth-Edwards.... whoops! Gotta blame the flu I have.

Sorry, but as long as he isn't clamoring for a marriage protection act to immmunize the DOMA from a SCOTUS ruling like Hostettler was, then I consider Ellsworth to be a positive. Some times you are forced to take small steps in some territories. I agree with you wholeheartedly; but at the same time, you aren't living in the 8th district. Ellsworth in that respect is a god-send.

Indiana as a whole certainly isn't marching to the same drummer as New England is right now. For that to occur simply takes time. I'll be dead by then; but, hey, even Indiana is a step up from where I was living before. Ellsworth is faithfully representing his constituency in this regard. I won't fault him for that or demand he change, because were he to do so it is likely we'd have another Hostettler in representing the 8th district.

So yeah, this is a purely political decision in which one chooses a representative who would not vote in favor of us, but at the same time a representative who would not vote in favor of bills with provisions which are clearly punitive against us. It is a choice to support neutrality. And for around here, I think that is something of a plus.

Sorry if you think that is somehow "settling" for that which is beneath us. But I also grew up here in an atmosphere far worse than exists now. Yes, there is much work to be done in Indiana. In a way I think our civil rights struggle is opposite that of blacks. Their rights were determined and legislated even before the American people's hearts and minds were won over. It seems for us that we must win the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans before our rights are to be legislatively assured.

You're right, Donna. Neither of them care about our community. Donnelly doesn't even have the "my district is right wing" like Ellsworth does - he's close to Chicago. Instead, he's simply a coward that can't even vote in favor of condemning attacks against gay people.

Robyn Black | May 23, 2009 11:09 AM

Donnelly is indeed going to be a challenge. I would love to organize a Northern Indiana contingent to go to one of his "Congressman on Your Corner" deals. I think the main problem with him is he doesn't really believe that enough of our district cares about these issues, but I think he's wrong. In a recent survey of 100 South Bend college student over 60% either thought is was already illegal to fire or discriminate in housing just because someone is gay OR they knew it wasn't legal and are strongly in favor of these protections. We need to rally the troops and make Donnelly look at us as a group, not as individuals.

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | May 24, 2009 10:21 AM

Robyn, I think it's a great idea to organize a rally of allies to meet up with Donnelly. Between SBE, IUSB, ND, and other sources I'm sure we could muster quite a showing. We should make this a big showing not small numbers. Great idea. Lets do it.