Betty Greene Salwak

Lobbying Against Indiana's Marriage Discrimination Amendment: Newbie Report

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | March 23, 2011 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, HJR-6, Indiana, marriage amendment, same-sex marriage

A couple of weeks ago I attended a lobbying workshop presented by Indiana Equality Action, in which we learned how to address our legislators on the upcoming vote to embed marriage discrimination in the Indiana constitution. On Tuesday I drove down to the Statehouse to talk to my legislators, Rep. Brian Bosma (R), Speaker of the House, and Senator Scott Schneider (R).

bosma_1002.jpgOnce clear of the security scan at the entrance, I couldn't tell which way to go ("upstairs," according to previous instruction). The place was packed with people dressed in black suits, so I stood out somewhat. My puzzled look caught an employee's eye and she guided me to the information desk on the main floor. The woman at the desk gave me very clear instructions on how to reach both legislators.

On the third floor, I walked to the desk on the east side of the building. I asked the gentleman at the desk to speak to Brian Bosma. He handed me a plain notepad and asked me to write my name and whom I represent. Since I don't represent anyone, he said my name would do. He explained that Mr. Bosma might not be available and took my note back.

About five minutes later, a well-dressed woman about my own age appeared. She was Bosma's personal assistant, and she told me that he was not in. I told her why I was there. She seemed sympathetic to my cause and encouraged me to contact Bosma by email. We shook hands and I went to the desk on the west side of the building.

The gentleman there had slips of paper that made it easy to indicate whom you wished to address, your name, what group you represent ("myself") and what issue you wish to discuss. The man at the desk encouraged me to look at the pictures of the senators on the desk so I would recognize Mr. Schneider if he emerged to speak to me.

I stood behind the long chain that set back the crowd of about fifty people (all in black suits) who were waiting to address legislators. Senators emerged from the chamber with slips of paper in their hands and looked for those who waited. The senators stayed only a few minutes with each person, separated by that chain.

Schneider came out with several slips of paper and the man at the desk pointed to me. We shook hands. I told Schneider that this was the first time I'd ever done this but I felt strongly enough about it that I had to go outside my comfort zone. I did most of the talking: I'm straight, Christian, and I know that this amendment is wrong; and I know that many more people just like me agree. He didn't want to hear about the poll that backed me up because "polls don't sway my vote. I was elected to vote my conscience."

Schneider's conscience on this matter is guided by his faith. He bristled when I asked why he chose to follow this one issue in the Bible and ignore others. When he learned my background, Schneider asked, "Are you trying to tell me the Bible does not say that homosexuality is a sin?!" He cut off my explanation about translation, context, and culture. We both agreed that we would not convince the other about our views, so I told him that although I was his constituent, he did not represent me or the many who feel as I do. He agreed and we shook hands.

Schneider, Bosma and others need to know that we will vote them out of office over this matter. There are several simple ways to make this known: phone, email, or personal visit.

Register to vote. Find out who represents you in your district and write to them. You can meet them personally by going to the Statehouse when the legislature is in session. Most will honor your request to meet. Those who don't can accept a note from you that will be delivered by a page. Ask for a response by phone or email.

We who address the legislators may or may not change their minds. Some already agree but will not vote in our favor because it might cost them re-election. We must find the language that allows them to vote favorably without costing them their seats.

In the meantime, we must talk to our fellow voters. Tell the people you know and work with why and how this amendment hurts you. If they don't know the harm that comes from this discrimination, it remains a vague issue they have no feelings about. Let public opinion sway our politicians so that it is easier to do the right thing.

At the lobbying workshop, Randy Studt said, "When the world ends, I want to be in Indiana - because it will come ten years later." Maybe. Maybe if enough of us get the word out, we can move Indiana into the present.

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 23, 2011 8:47 AM

Thanks for attending Indiana Equality Action's session and following up by your efforts to talk to your representatives. Often folks to take the time and effort to do that come away somewhat frustrated, especially when lawmakers ignore the fact that the First Amendment requires them to keep "what the Bible says about..." this or that out of their deliberations.

However, although it may not be apparent that any single interaction with a legislator, especially one diametrically opposed to what a citizen has to say, has any impact, there can be a cumulative effect over time. I notice at least subtle differences in the landscape between the time I first testified against HJR-6's predecessor in 2007 and currently.

Hang in there. And continue to encourate others to do so. My good colleague Randy Studt's comments about Indiana being ten years behind still haven't been discredited, but I know he wouldn't at all mind if they were wrong on occasion!

Don Sherfick, Legislative Chair
Indiana Equality Action

Thank you Betty! Good suggestions.

Schneider and Bosma are two of the biggest jackasses in the statehouse.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 23, 2011 9:58 AM

The Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee just voted to reject and amendment to HJR-6 that would have taken out the second sentence and at least allowed a future legislature to enact civil unions and domestic partnerships, etc. Then the full committee voted 7-3 (strict party lines) to pass HJR-6. It will now go to the full Senate.

Rick Sutton | March 23, 2011 12:30 PM

Betty, may your tribe multiply. They're not ready for reason. If you try to be rational, you get bowled-over. Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw recently:

"My dogma just ate your karma."

"I was elected to vote my conscience."

Actually, he was not.

I applaud you for going and doing that, as frustrating as it may have been for you.