Indiana's only statewide LGBT advocacy organization, Indiana Equality, has filed for bankruptcy. The organization has been plagued for years with a poor reputation for financial mismanagement and inefficiency. Last year it was also discovered that longtime treasurer Dan Funk had stolen funds from the organization.
Robin Lange, Communications Chair for the organization, announced the decision last week on the same day North Carolina voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. Indiana will face a similar charge for an amendment in this year's legislative session; if approved the matter will head to voters for ratification.
"On April 14, 2012, the Boards of Indiana Equality and Indiana Equality Action met to consider options for grounding the organizations in the best possible financial position to win against HJR-6 and to create a more inclusive Indiana," Lange said. "Unanimously and as a result of thorough deliberation, the Boards voted to reorganize both IE and IEA under the terms of bankruptcy."
"The decision to reorganize under bankruptcy was not made lightly, as one can certainly imagine. Our all-volunteer organization has been operating under a very lean, shoestring budget to strengthen our grassroots efforts and collaboration across the state, which makes this decision additionally painful," Lange continued.
"But we must be honest, as our new leadership demands. IE/IEA have had a person in a position of trust in the near past who has not been faithful to what many would consider good fiduciary responsibilities. We have lost money, and are actively pursuing resolutions to the issues surrounding that situation."
Controversy has always swirled around the organization's poor decisions - including hiring Mark St. John, a lobbyist with a checkered past, to perform day-to-day organizational management for an exorbitant salary. Most of the money raised by the group has gone directly into St. John's pockets over the past several years and many insiders blame the former hired gun for the organization's woes.
Funk has since repaid the stolen funds, but St. John has reportedly threatened to take the group to court to force the cash strapped organization to pay out the rest of his contract. Faced with financial insolubility, the decision to declare bankruptcy quickly became the only option. Funk and St. John have since left the organization's leadership team.
Several prominent LGBT activists in Indiana who spoke off the record last week indicated that they were pleased with the decision. "This will hopefully allow the community to put more trust in the organization and bring back some sorely needed partners who left in disgust years ago," said one. "As we start the sprint for a marriage amendment and watch as politicians from both sides of the aisle continue to degrade gay people, we need strong leadership now more than ever."