This morning I awoke to good news from Indiana Youth Group Executive Director Mary Byrne. While Republican Hoosier lawmakers have worked in tandem with far right religious leaders to try and revoke a specialty license plate issued to the group, Indiana's only LGBT youth group has won the battle.
The homophobic politicians first attempted to revoke all specialty plates issued this year, but since that included other organizations like the Indianapolis Zoo. Obviously, that didn't fly and the House bill was dropped by the sponsor who declared it had become "too politicized." Then Senate Republican leadership attempted to sneak the language through via a conference committee in the last two days of the session - therefore bypassing an actual vote in either chamber.
After being flooded with citizens upset at the blatant LGBT bashing, the Senate President Pro Tem found what he called a "solution." He tried to force the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to revoke the plate and terminate the group's contract because they gave low number plates away to donors. The BMV refused the request saying it was a common practice allowed by the department. Nullifying IYG's contract for the infraction would also require them to do the same for other groups with specialty plates - like the Indianapolis Colts, most universities, and other not-for-profits.
While several conservatives used the legislation to target IYG, the idea to limit the number of specialty plates isn't actually that bad. There are dozens of plates currently issued and police report that it gets confusing trying to remember each and every one. Fair enough. Once the religious right started targeting LGBT youth though, the debate became far too contentious to actually talk about the actual issue at hand. Instead of a safety issue, it became a way to bash LGBT people once again.
In an emailed statement, Byrne fills us in on the latest maneuvers to bully LGBT youth and declares victory. Byrne's e-mail is after the break.
For the second time in 2 weeks, it looks like IYG has dodged the bullet. Its been a month no one at IYG wants to go through again...but we probably will have to next year.
The House did what it should have done a month ago. They've decided to put a moratorium on any new plates and have established an interim study committee to investigate the best ways to handle the number of specialty plates. What a great idea!
The "solution" to the "problem" that Senator Long thought he had discovered yesterday (the problem was then clearly IYG, the solution was to have the BMV take IYG's plate away because we broke our contract by using the low number plates as thank-you gifts) ended up not being a solution at all. Yes, we were using the plates as thank-you gifts, but this has been a normal way of using the low plates, so if the BMV was to take IYG's plate, they'd also have to take the Colt's plate, Butler [University]'s, the 4H's plate, among others. What was really funny about this (we are developing a weird sense of humor!) was that just a week or so ago, the contract wasn't worth the paper it was written on but now they want to use it against us!
So, it's a relief that it's over. Now we can actually get back to our regular work of helping young people!
We want to thank so many people for making the calls to the Senate and House offices...they really did work! The legislators knew we were watching and they knew that a LOT of people were upset by what they were doing. Thanks to others, especially those from outside of Indiana, who donated to us to show their support (one person gave in honor of the crazy representative from Ft. Wayne who made such a stupid remark about the Girl Scouts.) Again, thanks to Mark St. John, Rick Sutton, Evan McMahon and IE for helping us understand the process, talking to legislators on both sides of the aisle, and putting out action alerts. Thanks to the other organizations who rallied their troops to make calls. And a warm shout out to Tony Stewart's mom for supporting us in an interview with WIBC, saying that IYG deserved a plate just like all the rest of them.
Thanks so much to all of the people who bought their IYG plates in the last month. Your actions spoke volumes! The fact that IYG had sold more than any other new organization was HUGE!
It's hard to think of all the people that we need to thank. Actually it's hard to think at all right now! All we know is that the youth are safe (a bit angry, but hey, that's good for them!), IYG is still strong (stronger?), and the bullies lost this round. It's time to celebrate!