Guest Blogger

Guest post by Congressman Joe Donnelly

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 09, 2007 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, Politics, The Movement, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Congress, Democrats, guest post, H.R. 1592, hate crimes against LGBT people, Indiana, Joe Donnelly, Matthew Shepard Act, violence

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Congressman Joe Donnelly. Representative Donnelly recently voted against the federal hate crimes bill that passed the House of Representatives. Only fourteen democratic legislators voted against the bill; two were from Indiana. Indiana's other NO vote, Congressman Brad Ellsworth, will guest post tomorrow. Please be as courteous with your comments as you would if you were talking to the Congressman face-to-face. See our comments policy for any questions.

Indiana Congressman Joe DonnellyThank you for allowing me to share my views on H.R. 1592, The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as a guest poster on Bilerico. I appreciate the productive atmosphere this blog promotes in allowing multiple viewpoints to be heard and considered.

I took many factors into consideration before ultimately deciding to vote against H.R. 1592. Not least of those factors was the input I received from my constituents. All told, I received nearly five times as many calls, emails and letters from opponents of the bill as I did from its supporters. But that was not the only factor: I also question whether a federal hate crimes law would truly be effective in ending the abhorrent acts of violence that are fueled by hate.

The sad reality is that all violent crimes are in some way born of hate. I am sickened at the thought of any human being acting out in violence against any other human being. Thankfully, our society decided hundreds of years ago that acts of violence perpetrated against innocent individuals should be forbidden. These acts are criminal and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The chief law enforcement officers in our communities-our prosecutors-do their level-best to punish violent criminals for their actions. For this service, we owe them a debt of gratitude. However, prosecutors, whether at the local, state or federal level, 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. But as long as there are people who hate, envy or are jealous or angry, there will be violent crimes against innocent people, regardless of whether a federal hate crimes law like H.R. 1592 is on the books.

I don't mean to imply with my reasoning that Congress should simply throw up its hands and do nothing to further crack down on crime. To the contrary, Congress has an obligation to set policies that help make our communities safer places to live. 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. For example, I support increasing funding for the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which helps state and local law enforcement entities hire new prosecutors and pay for overtime, training and equipment. I am also a cosponsor of a bill that would reauthorize the Community-Oriented Policing, or COPS, Program. If passed into law, it would put an additional 50,000 police officers onto our streets.

Thank you again for allowing me to address your concerns about this important issue. I hope that we can continue our dialogue in the future so I can do my best to represent the people of the 2nd District of Indiana.

Congressman Joe Donnelly
Indiana 2nd Congressional District

[UPDATE 5/10] Representative Brad Ellsworth has guest blogged now. You can find his post here.

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I do not "buy" your explanation. If a Federal Hate Crime Law is so useless as you claim, then I guess it's safe to assume you will be trying to eradicate the current Federal Hate Crime Law. But my guess is you won't be going this route as it would upset the religious right extremists who are currently protected under a Federal Hate Crime Law. Thank you for ensuring that I remain an unprotected, second-class citizen.

Did you confirm that the feedback you received against the bill were from actual constituents in your district? And not generic emails sent from all over the country from organizations like AFA, Focus on the Family, etc.

Congressman, with all due respect, this response, to me, reeks of the OLD way of Democrats dealing with gay rights issues: that it's enough just to show up and give "them" a moment of your time. This is no longer enough. We demand real action on simple issues like safety and employment security. There's nothing complicated about that.

I worked for a Senator for six and a half years. The WORST way to determine a vote is by the number of calls you get. The right wing is masterful at orchestrating this stuff. They can even have people from all over the country call into a specific number, which reroutes their call so it looks like it comes from your District.

You were elected to do what is right. It should be a no-brainer to support adding the LGBT community to already existing hate crimes laws.

Further, we expect your support on ENDA. Everyone deserves equal access to the job market. Please see additional info on a blog post I did at Huffington Post here.

Thank you for taking the time to post here and thanks to Bil for working to arrange it.

Lane Hudson

Joe, I agree that most all violent crimes are motivated by hate. What I can not resolve, however, is why some hate crimes are more protected than others. Currently, hate crimes are subject to federal prosecution only if the acts of violence are motivated by race, religion, color or national origin. Why do crimes of hate directed towards these groups, deserve a higher ranking if you will, than hate crimes directed toward other populations? Therein lies a dichotomy that smacks of hypocrisy. Higher protection for some groups do not 'cut it'. I would be in favor of getting rid of all hate crime legislation. But to rank some and not all as being worthy I find extraordinarily questionable with explanations rather flimsy.

I am the mother of a gay son. I fear for his safety on a daily basis. What I don't understand is how you could vote against this bill because more people called you to vote against it than for it. It is the job of our politicians to protect minority classes. The majority basically do not care what happens to these minorities. And I believe in this instance many of those who called you to vote against it were homophobic people to begin with. It is your job to protect my son. How would you feel if you had a gay child? How would you vote then? This goes beyond just the gay person. Take into consideration their families - their parents who love them and want to see them have the same rights as other protected classes. Did you get a chance to hear Judy Shepard talk? Did you hear her story? Please think about the families and loved ones of the GLBT population. We want our children protected.

While it's laudable to support the hiring of more prosecutors and police officers, how does that help me if I'm a victim of a gay bashing and the local police tell me I've brought it on myself for not acting more masculine or a bigoted jury decides I got what was coming to me for being gay?

Sure, this law won't stop hate crimes against gay people. But properly enforced, it will make sure that some of these gay bashers are taken off the street, regardless of what the local communities think about gays and lesbians.

I take issue with the fact that you choose to believe that hate crimes legislation does nothing to fight hate crimes. The American Psychological Association believes that such legislation is necessary because the perpetrators feel that their crime is not only legal, but sanctioned by society. Are they right?

Also, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that as many as 80% of hate crimes go unreported because the victims believe that law enforcement doesn't care about hate crimes. What message does it send to them when you don't vote for a common sense bill like this?

There are other justice-based reasons to support hate crimes legislation as well. But I'm wondering where you're getting your information that hate crimes legislation is inneffective against fighting hate crimes? The prosecutors you referred to I'm sure haven't done the investigations into the causes of hate crimes that the Souther Poverty Law Center, the American Psychological Association, and the National Center for Victims of Crime that have shown that such legislation is effective.

Congressman Donnelly,

Thank you for posting this. Obviously you feel strongly that the GLBT community is not worthy of the protections offered other groups covered under the federal hate crimes law. Certainly the pressure your office received from blatant homophobes was probably whithering.

Imagine being gay and running into these people daily on the street.

I am underwhelmed by your courage.

Ellen Andersen | May 9, 2007 11:35 AM

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I appreciate your desire to respect the wishes of your constituents, but I'd suggest that (per Lane Hudson), phone calls are more likely to reflect the intense feelings that some people have about the issue than they are to reflect the preferences of your constituents in general. Survey data on the subject of hate crimes shows that a supermajority of Hoosiers (and Americans in general) support adding sexual orientation to hate crimes legislation.

As just one example, the 2005 Indiana Poll asked a random sample of Hoosiers if they supported hate crimes legislation: 77% said that they did. Of those 77%, 85% believed that sexual orientation should be included in hate crimes legislation. Republicans and Independents were just as likely to support hate crimes legislation--and including sexual orientation-- as Democrats were. And people in small towns, suburbs, and rural areas were as supportive as people in cities. In short, it's a no brainer among the general public (and I can provide you with this and other survey data if you'd like.)

That said, this is not an instance where I think majority rule should trump minority rights. Most crimes are based on hate, but we make a distinction between 1st degree and 2nd degree murder, because we think intention matters. Hate crimes are different from other assaults because the intention is to deter people from being full and active participants in the community. They're designed to push the target group out of public spaces, to make targets afraid to speak up and otherwise be visible. This is intolerable in a free country. While majority rule is a cornerstone of any democracy, so is universal participation and political equality. Crimes designed to deter people from practicing their civil rights must be dealt with harshly because they are especially dangerous to the community.

Very truly yours,
Ellen Ann Andersen
Associate Professor of Political Science, IUPUI

Full disclosure: I also sit on the board of Indiana Stonewall Democrats and am a member of the Indiana Democratic Party's State Central Committee

Congressman Donnelly,

Thank you for giving Hoosiers (and non-Hoosiers) the opportunity to have this discussion with you. I am a Hoosier and a progressive female blogger who focuses heavily on women's and LGBT rights issues. As you can imagine, I was deeply disappointed by your vote, but appreciate the chance to explain to you why.

I'd like to respond to your statement that "The sad reality is that all violent crimes are in some way born of hate."

Well, no. Some violent crimes are born of mental illness, or apathy, or opportunity. It shouldn't be taken as read that all crimes are equally "hateful"--that's a gross simplification of the complicated issue that is violent crime.

Of those violent crimes that are born of hate, however, here's the difference--and hence raison d'ĂȘtre for hate crimes legislation--between a general violent crime and a hate crime: When someone is targeted for her/his race, nationality, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it has the potential to affect everyone who shares that identity across the entire nation.

A whole community isn't suddenly considered unsafe because a husband murders his wife, because we recognize the difference between domestic violence and community violence. That murder wasn't random; it was specific. The victim was chosen for a reason. It doesn't make the crime any less horrific, but it doesn't reverberate. It stops with that murderer and that victim.

Hate crimes are the opposite of that; we recognize that when someone is targeted just because s/he is black, for example, that can make all black people feel that much less safe, irrespective of the safety of their physical community, because their race community has been attacked. In a hate crime, it doesn't matter which black person/gay person/woman/Jew/quadriplegic had been there; it's so nonspecific with regard to the individual and specific to a characteristic they share with others that it inevitably reverberates.

Suddenly blacks/gays/women/Jews/quadriplegics are staying indoors a little more, feeling a little less able to go out after dark alone...lives of people not directly touched by the crime are affected--and that's why hate crimes legislation is needed, so that freedom can be equally experiences by everyone. To deny its necessity is to deny that there are communities uniquely victimized.

You made a mistake, Congressman.

Although I appreciate that you took the time to explain your decision, I noticed that you didn't use the words "gay" or "sexual orientation" once during your letter. To me that shows a lack of understanding of how hate crimes impact an entire community of gay people who here anti-gay speech coming from the halls of Congress on a very regular basis.

When a gay man is killed in a hate crime in Harlem, all of us gay people in Harlem then live in fear of what else may come.

Does Rep. Joe Donnelly support a federal non-discrimination law?

You voted against the HR 1592 based on the number of contacts from opponents versus proponents; isn't that the same thing as justifying your no vote by using the 'blame the victim' excuse? Personally, I hugely resent having to constantly contact my legislators in order to remind or convince them to do the right thing; I did my duty when I cast my well thought-out votes at election time. Surely, it's not asking too much to expect the same consideration from our representatives.

You are a coward and these lame excuses will not hide it.

Mr. Congressman,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts however as a person who is affected by such a vote I am sorely disappointed with your lack of understanding or compassion for a significant portion of the population. Why does someone who is beaten or killed because of their skin color or someone who has "KIKE" or a swastika burned on their front lawn deserve more protection from the person who is targeted because of their real or perceived sexual orientation? Is "KIKE" worse than "FAGGOT?"

This political football would like to know why he's been drop-kicked with a spiked shoe. Please send your response to [email protected]

Daimeon Pilcher

To quote you:

"The sad reality is that all violent crimes are in some way born of hate. I am sickened at the thought of any human being acting out in violence against any other human being. Thankfully, our society decided hundreds of years ago that acts of violence perpetrated against innocent individuals should be forbidden. These acts are criminal and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Congressman, when can we expect you to lead the charge to repeal all existing hates crimes legislation, as well as the Hates Crimes Statistics Act?

I am not convinced that a federal hate crimes law would reduce the incidence of crime in our communities

I disagree, but for the sake of argument, let us suppose that you are correct in guessing that crimes motivated by hate will happen with equal frequency with or without the legislation in question.

It would *still* matter to the victims of such crimes and to their communities, because the penalties to the perpetrators would be greater. Keeping those who commit violent acts against others off the streets for longer periods of time would seem to be in the public good, would it not?

Furthermore, federalization means that people living in areas where local law enforcement might be indifferent to certain classes of victims still have some hope that they might receive the attention that justice requires.

All of this is in addition to any deterrent effect the mere fact of the law being on the book may have, which is a factor you have already dismissed as not relevant.

Perhaps you are simply against the idea of additional legal for any class of victims, on general principle, but since the vote in question was not whether to repeal existing hate crimes protections for classes who already have such protection, I cannot be certain.

What *is* apparent is that under the current system of laws, you do not regard LGBT as a class worthy of protection, and by so voting, you send a message to those who hate that we are more acceptable (or at least, less objectionable) targets than those already protected by existing hate crimes legislation.

GLBT people are beaten and killed everyday in this country, their blood is on your hands, sleep on that thought. Maybe one of your grandchildren will be gay, then you will wake up from that sleep. The reason for your vote against the hate crime prevention act makes no sense and is at its best a smokescreen for homophobia.

As you stated Congressman Donnelly, "Congress has an obligation to set policies that help make our communities safer places to live". When it comes to issues related to human rights there can be no compromise.

Your view that all violent crime is born of hate is oversimplified. I do not think you understand the true nature of what hate crime is all about and why it is critical for it to be dealt with aggressively. Hate crimes most often arise out of racial and religious biases and have led to events like the Roman persecution of Christians, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and genocide in Rwanda. It is an act of terrorism and terrorism should have a price.

Indiana is one of 5 states that not only does not have hate crimes legislation but has a track record for racial and religious bias based hate crimes. When states fail to provide leadership it is up to our federal government to protect the citizens of this country.

In August 1992 a report of the Indiana Advisory Committee prepared for the information and consideration of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Commission had this to say:

" In July 1988 the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) passed a resolution on encouraging its State Advisory Committees to review the subject of bias-related violence. The Commission itself had reviewed the issue and in 1990 published Intimidation and Violence, Racial and Religious Bigotry in America concluding:
The phenomenon of racial and religious violence and harassment is a continuing threat to the maintenance of peaceful, democratic, and pluralistic society. Bigotry-bred violence and intimidation are manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of religious bigotry that still survive even after the years of effort spent on their eradication.
The Indiana Advisory Committee to the USCCR recognized that hate crime was a serious problem in the State. The nature and extent of hate crime in Indiana was researched, and a community forum held on the topic in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 8, 1991."

9 principle reasons for hate crime were included in their report:
1. an erosion of civic responsibility,
2. a lack of political and private leadership,
3. inadequate statutes and deterrents,
4. societal racism and discrimination,
5. a diminishing commitment by the churches,
6. failure to take hate crime seriously,
7. changing demographics,
8. a loss of a sense of civil rights history, and
9. poverty

There recommendations were:
1. recognize, report, and expose hate crime activity,
2. train and educate the police and the community in race relations and multicultural awareness,
3. insist that national and local political leaders take the lead in decrying acts of bigotry, and
4. enact civil and criminal penalties to deter hate crime activity

The political atmosphere in Indiana stalls on combating this issue every time. For example in 1991 Indiana House Bill 1842 in that would have required all prosecutors to report hate crimes to the Indiana State Police. Its' purpose was to begin recording hate crime activity and to force local law enforcement to begin recognizing hate crimes. This important legislation passed the House but failed in the Senate. And just this year House bill HB 1459 hate crimes legislation was killed in the Indiana House by partisan politic chicanery.

We cannot rely on COPS or JAG to address this systemic issue. Although both are good programs neither address hate crimes education or prevention. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes prevention Act you voted No for had provisions that provided needed support and assistance to combat hate crime as well as a grant program that provided funds specifically for training local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes. Further, both the International Association of Chiefs of Police AND the National Sheriffs' Association urged Congress to pass this legislation.

Congressman Donnelly I thank you for providing a forum to respond to your "No" vote explanation. However, your decision should not have been partially based on "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" but rather justice and human rights and for that there can be no compromise. I feel you let the minorities in your district who are most affected by hate crimes down on this one.

Congressman, thank you for taking the time to post your excuses in this forum. I am afraid that I can think of only two justifications for your response: One is that you do not understand the legislation, the other is that you want to make a statement that GLBT folk are not deserving of protection and may be targeted with relative impunity and law enforcement would be justified in paying less attention to crimes against them than those against more favored groups. Either choice should embarrass you deeply.

Ellen Andersen and Melissa McEwan have explained lucidly what hate crimes legislation is. We cannot do that often enough for those of the general public who only read the headlines and titles and thus respond to your shallow reasoning. The churches who depend on homophobia to fill their coffers use this specious reasoning to conceal their use of gay bashing to fill their pews. I should hope that a full-time legislator voting on an important bill would have actually read the text, and would have learned its purpose. If you have done that, then you are deceiving your constituents and readers. Shame on you for the deception; shame on you for the cowardice not to tell the bill's opponents that in this country everyone is equal before the law and everyone is equally protected; shame on you for selling out those of your constituents who are in mortal danger.

Thanks for posting to, Congressman. I think that it says a lot about your character that you're willing to guest blog here knowing that most of the readers wouldn't be happy with your vote. You've given your reasons why you voted against the legislation and while several of us are upset by your decision, it's telling that you are willing to engage in the conversation. I don't know that I'd be too willing to stick my neck out and tell people what my reasoning was when I knew I was gonna get a bunch of blowback... That alone speaks to your character.

While I understand your reasonings about how many constituents contacted you about the bill, I'd like to point out that you've had several comments here on trying to explain why the issue is important to our community. I agree with Ed that Ellen and Melissa gave some of the best responses to your reasonings. But this is a national issue - not just a local one. Your vote affects LGBT citizens across the nation, not just in Indiana. The gay man who gets beaten in Texas or the lesbian who gets raped in Idaho are counting on your vote just as much as folks from South Bend or Kokomo.

I sincerely hope that if President Bush vetoes the hate crimes law, you will change your mind and vote to override the veto. I know you are not homophobic as some have charged. One way to help with that would be to vote in favor of ENDA - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Would you be willing to come out in support of that legislation?

Mad John | May 9, 2007 3:45 PM

So the good congressman also opposes hate-crimes protections for blacks, Jews and Christians? No, I didn't think so. So much for principle, eh, Joe?

Wilson46201 | May 9, 2007 4:05 PM

"Stallio" explained hate crimes brilliantly:

furthermore, a fundamental difference between a hate crime and a "normal" crime is not whether the perpetrator hates the victim, but how it affects others in the community. if i kill my neighbor because he's a jerk and i hate him, that's not a hate crime. but if i kill him because he's black and i hate blacks, that is a hate crime, because it could potentially terrorize any other blacks who live in the community. (and if i spray-paint the n-word on his house after i kill him, it will almost definitely terrorize any black neighbors.)

put simply: hate crimes are a form of terrorism. they send an unsubtle message to minority groups that "we don't like your kind 'round here. in fact, we beat up and kill your kind 'round these parts." this is why hate crimes are worse than non-hate crimes, and why they deserve harsher punishment.

Well, at least he didn't fall back on the whole "crime of the mind" mumbo jumbo that my State Representative pulled on me.

I sent Mr. Thompson another email asking him about Aaron Hall. I'm still waiting for him to get back to me on that. I won't let my face turn blue.

Congressman Donnelly, I think you are going to find that Indiana's 2nd CD has a lot more GLBT people along with their allies than you ever imagined. You beat Chocola last November by 15,145 votes, out of over 190,000 cast. The next election won't be a midterm and the GOP base will be out in force. You'll need every Democrat you can get. You just alienated a real chunk of them. Every gay and every lesbian has friends, family, colleagues and this isn't an issue you can brush off with lame and dishonest excuses. You should consider GLBT sensitivity training. Bring Chris Carney and Brad Ellsworth with you.

It is certainly admirable that the Congressman agreed to explain his views here, but I agree with Lane. This seems like the OLD way of LGBT politics. We're "backdoor" friends. We'll take your money and we'll invite you to the parties, but don't ask us to admit to anyone we're friends.

I've seen this way too much with certain Democrats in Indiana. Then again, I've also suffered the LGBT politicos who call this "political reality" and still write fat checks to these Dems. So, who is enabling whom?

I stand proudly as a Democrat, but I will not blindly support Dems who behave like you have, Congressman. Doing the right thing means doing what you know is right, not what is popular. The rights of the minority should never be usurped by the majority.

LGBT citizens have a right to live within the greater community not with fear of the greater community. And it's well nigh time anyone who calls himself/herself a Democrat stood up for that without question.

As Ellen points out, there is comfortable majority support for most LGBT rights both in Indiana and across the country. Most folks waver on marriage and civil unions, but that's it.

You're an anachronism and it's hurting LGBT Americans every day. Get with the program.

I got the same basic response from Oklahoma Democratic 2nd District Representative Dan Boren; however, he went a step further in saying that he believes that race, sex, age, disability and reglion should not be protected either. These he considers special rights. Democrats deserve better representation.

Thanks for providing a forum for this debate to occur.

I think TerranceDC at Republic of T has a post about "Who Is It OK To Hate?" which the Congressperson should read to understand why this issue is so close to heart for so many people.

Common Sense | May 10, 2007 8:30 AM

As a lesbian, I'm now awake. Democrats are losers who want our money. Very few are actually decent people who try to do the right thing. I'm to the point where I'd rather see a Republican elected than someone like this guy. Even pea brains like this guy knows that gay people, especially gay men are routinely harassed and targeted for violence because they are gay. The government has taken a stand and has repeated told society that it is wrong to deny employment to, refuse housing to, to harass or hurt someone because of their choice in religion, because of their race, because of their national origin . . .

When the government refuses to add a group of people to this protected list even though this group is known to be a freguent target - what is the message?

I know what it is - this guy knows what it is - and so do the bigoted thugs in our schools, neighborhoods and streets.

Truly disgusting. Gays and lesbians - don't give any Democrat another cent.

Zach Adamson | May 10, 2007 8:56 AM

In response to the large number of callers opposed, let us not forget that what is right isn't always popular and what is popular isn't always right. And let us not ignore history. During the civil rights struggle of women and minorities, do you think things got done by con census?Although I think your right that hate crimes law wont prevent many crimes. Really that is only part of the intent.
The other half of the intent is the message it says about who we as American are. Do we or do we not think that it is ok to single out a person/s because of the class of people they belong to.
When the laws of our land state who we are, sentiment follows later. You have to admit that while violent crimes against people of color still exists, can you dispute that it is nothing compared to what it once was. (Note: I am from Marion Indiana, home of the famous Indiana lynching.) Is it because the fear of the law changed that? Or maybe its because the law changed the peoples perceptions of who we are? If the law says we as a people do not maim or murder people because they are members of a class of people, the sentiment will follow. It's how its always been done.
I disagree that all violent crime comes from hate.
Some comes from economic depression. The guy who robs an old lady on the street. Its the money they are after not the old lady. They would rob anyone weaker who they thought had money. Some violent crime is because people just have a disregard for other people. Like the boys who went on a spree beating homeless people in Florida. In no example, were these perpetrators trying to send a message of fear and dominance to the class of people that their victims belonged to. There is a difference. LGBT people need this protection. Its time to start changing the perceptions about who we are as Americans. Do we believe that its ok to commit violent crimes against a person based on the class of people they belong to? Who ever they are. If not, then our laws should reflect that.

I have to say that, as someone who was on the fence on the issue of hate crime laws in general, the comments to this post have swayed me. Actually, they prompted me to read more on the arguments in favor of these laws, and that persuaded me.

So, are we going to ever hear any response to our comments or is he just a "post excuses and run" type of congressman?

I'm starting to wonder too, Darien. In my talks with his staff, we spoke several times about the Congressman reading and responding to the comments. I wouldn't have given him a platform to speak if I'd have known he'd chicken out and not even respond... Geez.

I'm in Kay's camp - I don't have time to keep track of every piece of legislation that affects me and constantly send messages to elected officials reminded them to do the right thing:

When it goes to committee, when it goes to the floor, oh, now it's in the house, now its in the senate, hurry up! Call! Write! tell your friends to call and write! Oh, and do the same with these other six bills! Oh, and don't forget the local ordinances and city-county council! And the state legislature!

I do my best to keep up, but the religious right has me out-gunned at every turn with this stuff.

What's sad is that in reading these comments, it's clear that our community has a better understanding of these legal issues than Joe Donnelly does.

Don't feel badly Steph, I am sure that you feel the need to read and understand the bills you support, the religious right, those that are not computer clones, get their marching orders from their leaders; all they have to do is click, click, click.

It's interesting to see that Democratic Congressmen can be as hateful, biased and stupid as their Republican peers.

Bil Browning,
"In my talks with his staff, we spoke several times about the Congressman reading and responding to the comments."

I've read all the posts here. There are some really good posts. Perhaps Joe doesn't know what to say or how to respond at this point. I must say after researching this issue, doing my own post, and reading all the comments I'm even more convinced this legislation is needed.

C R McCaffrey | May 10, 2007 1:11 PM

Congressman Donnelly,
If your Child was stricken with a terminal disease and your doctor said to you, "Mr Donnelly I have a new medicine to treat this disease, but I cannot guarantee you it will work" would you Mr Donnelly say, "No doctor I only want to try what we know works, we will wait for a sure cure" and hope our child does not die? I think not Congressman, I believe you would jump at anything. Sir with all due respect to you, your explanation does not salve the wounds of those who have suffered from discrimination and hate crimes. Your vote or explanation will not dry the tears of one mother whose child was murdered out of hate.

If the law does not work then why was it enacted for other segments of our society? We both know the answer Congessman, don't we, it may not be perfect but it works. I certainly hope you never happen upon a lynching, it sounds to me like you might go along with the crowd.

Doing what is popular Mr Donnelly, doesn't mean what is popular is right or just. Congressman I would suggest you reset your moral compass, you sir have veered way off course.

C R McCaffrey

burnt toast | May 10, 2007 1:13 PM

"I also question whether a federal hate crimes law would truly be effective in ending the abhorrent acts of violence that are fueled by hate."

The answer is no. Laws do not eliminate crime. They act as deterrents. They instruct community, as to which acts are tolerated and stipulate consequences for those that are proscribed.

If applied equally and fairly by governing bodies who also respect those laws, any crime... even hate crimes, can effectively be shown deterrence. I was raised in the Jim Crow southeast, so I can state this based upon experience. The alternative to legal restraint, is tacit approval for hateful acts.

You state that it was politically advantageous for you to cast a "no" vote... that by serving a hypothetical majority, you have fulfilled your elected mandate. That is a coward's (or a career politician's) rationale.

I am certain that your belief system prevents you from even imagining that a label of "BIGOT" could be applied to your action. I don't know anyone who enjoys admitting that to themselves. However, political expedience only goes so far as an excuse, and eventually those who judge your actions must weigh the consequences of your decision. It may well be that siding with bigots is enough to earn the label no matter what rationale you would like to invoke.

Unlike religion, sexual identity is increasingly shown by scientific findings to be one of genetics. Like color of skin, we are born with our true sexual identities. That includes you.

Your support for hate crime laws based upon choice of religion, while excluding hate crime legislation that would protect those who have little or no choice as to sexual identity, is not only morally wrong in the deepest sense, but also is a very strong indicator as to what kind of politician you are. While I do strongly support protection of freedom for choice of belief, I find your willingness to marginalize those who are discriminated against based upon sexual identity, to be wholly without support.

I believe you are attempting to mask your real beliefs. On the surface, posting your excuses to this blog may seem to some as courageous, but to me it just seems like a fairly transparent attempt to hold on to a known voter base, without supporting them in any way. Show some real courage.

Mr. Donnelly,

While I understand you may think that hate crimes (or "bias" crimes as they are otherwise known) legislation is not effective and that essentially, all crimes are crimes, it simply does not address major contributions of such laws and classifications. In fact, such a statement clearly undermines all of the work that has ever been done in the field of criminology of which you claim to be a champion supporter. Your inadequate research and subsequent NO vote show otherwise.

Having a background in criminology, I can tell you that hate crime laws help in a variety of ways. They help to show criminologists areas in which crimes are perpetrated, by which individuals, in what areas and gives them a much greater understanding of why hate crimes occur and how to PREVENT them. A part of being proactive is being able to analyze data and a part of being able to analyze data is to create laws and classifications to further assist in understanding crime prevention.

While we know that the basis of crime includes both biological and environmental explanations the key factor in hate crimes is that the bias was placed in an individual with the capability of committing a crime based on that bias. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and making excuses will not change the bias that infects many individuals-which is what I see voting NO on such legislation as doing.

Hate crime legislation is important in helping scientists, criminologists, sociologists, etc. understand exactly how these crimes occur and to better educate themselves and the public on what they can do to prevent such crimes. It also aids in helping these professionals analyze how well the criminal justice system works in assisting victims and their families who have been affected by such crimes.

To state that allowing tougher laws and further categories of classification of crimes isn't worth it is simply an uneducated remark on a multitude of levels and it saddens and rather offends me that someone who portrays themselves as a representative of the people would not research this subject further or simply dismiss it as nonsense.

If you would like to find out issues that the GLBT community readily face I would highly suggest that you talk to Sargeant Brett Parsons of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liason Unit. I have had the pleasure of speaking with him in the past on the importance of the unit and I think that by speaking with him he may help you understand what the GLBT community faces. His e-mail address is [email protected] and you can find telephone and other details about the unit he oversees at While he may not be able to address whether such laws affect his job (only criminologists/scientists can know for sure by using raw data PROVIDED BY these laws) he can tell you just how much bias exists.

While we simply cannot state that inflicting harsher punishments will prevent bias until we look at data provided, we can safely assume that it will bring to light all of the crimes that ARE based on such crimes, what type of environment the offender was exposed to or what he was taught to which criminologists readily use to encourage methods of prevention. It's not just harsher punishments that are at stake here, it's classification and a system of identifying the TYPE of crime to better serve the community.

Hate crime laws may not directly keep many people from going on a gay-bashing tirade but it may give them pause and if that saves just ONE LIFE, Mr. Donnelly, that law was worth every second it took to vote yes. And because criminologists can use the information obtained from it...even better. Perhaps you would have been better served to actually asked those who USE the data provided by the classification, not those it doesn't.

This matter is not just personal for the individuals whose lives this legislation affects but it is also detrimental to the criminal justice system as a whole and I encourage you to speak with those who use these data obtained by having these laws in place. Hate crimes occur because society has ingrained a particular bias to the very core of the individual committing the crime and the only way to prevent them from occurring is to enact laws that provide stiffer penalties and create new classifications to study how to prevent them.

As a so-called champion of protecting communities I would have hoped that you and your colleagues would have understood this. Your actions affect many and I encourage you to research heavily before making decisions that affect millions.

Kindest Regards,


just sayin' | May 10, 2007 3:23 PM

Silence is the voice of complicity. The tone of your response is predictably "nice" but completely unconvincing. The fact is that you don't see this as a problem for us homo's. Please be person enough to own your stuff. I would have alot more respect for you if you were honest about the way you feel about gay people instead of this "all crimes are hate crimes" garbage. I hope your consituents remember this on election day but I'm sure by then somehow you'll have made the gay rounds to try and pander the votes to keep yourself safely enshrined in DC. This yet another shining example of bigotry w/a happy face.

Congressman Ellsworth's Press Secretary just responded on his behalf at his post.

What's just as disturbing to me as the congressman's vote is the fact that he can't even allude to the existence of gay people in his explanation on an LGBT blog. I guess he feels safer never putting the slightest reference to gays in print. After all, he's got to keep his appeal to that important voting constituency - the homophobe community.

Come next election, the only possible reason for a gay person to vote for him is that any probable opponent will say hateful things about gays rather than just ignore our existence. But maybe being invisible is even worse than being hated.

Kyle Flood | May 11, 2007 12:19 AM

As an Indiana Democrat, I was very excited when Donnelly was sent to congress; however, I am now very upset with this vote. I would rather have a gay-friendly republican in this position than an anti-gay democrat. Very upsetting.

Kyle Flood | May 11, 2007 12:20 AM

P.S. - This really does make me sick. He is voting so he'll be re-elected instead of voting for what is right. He'd rather save his career than the LIVES of gay citizens.

Betsy Hart | May 11, 2007 2:44 PM

I'm posting on behalf of Congressman Donnelly. With my assistance, Joe has been monitoring the comments made in response to his initial post. He would like me to extend his thanks to everyone for responding and sharing their thoughts. He's sorry that many of you feel that he let you down; that certainly was not his intent. Finally, Joe asked that you continue the dialogue on this and other issues important to your community by contacting his office.

I have already voiced my opinion with Congressman Donnelly's office personally and had the opportunity to speak with someone from his D.C. office at length. I just moved to Indiana from Minneapolis and have been left with an overwhelming feeling of "we aren't in Kansas anymore". Minnesota passed laws to protect the GLBT, yes including gender identity, in 1975. It was the first state to do so. Since then, only NINE, yes NINE more states have followed suit, while 31 in all have hate crimes legislation that protects sexuality.

Indiana is one of the states that affords us zero protection. The White house has threatened to veto this bill because it feels that it is the state's responsibility to regulate crime at this level. That may be the case, but what do you do when nearly half the country doesn't have laws in place to protect us?

What I find most interesting is that Federal Hate Crime Legislation already exists; it protects victims of race and religion hate crimes. The Republicans and right-wing "values" organizations claim we are asking for special rights when in fact, we are only asking for equal rights.

As a Congressman your allegiance is not only to your constituants but to the Constitution and the premise that all men are created equal. Not passing this legislation is akin to telling Rosa Parks "Okay, we'll let you sit HALFWAY between the front and the back, but stay closer to the back if you can."

We're good enough to pay your salary. We're good enough to vote. We're good enough to pay taxes and we're good enough to take a few minutes to post the same lame factory-produced letter that you automatically send from anytime someone writes about this issue.

We're just not good enough to warrant a law where our state legislation has miserably failed us.

I am meeting with Congressman Donnelly in person on May 19 about this issue and ENDA. If anyone cares to join me from the area, please email me at the email I have provided. Thank you.

There are those in the legal system that will twist the law to attack the thoughts of innocent parties (i.e. Christians preaching against the sin of homosexuality). It has already taken place. Check out this story:


"He's sorry that many of you feel that he let you down; that certainly was not his intent."

Was there just no thought at all to how we would feel? How else *would* we feel? How would *you* feel?

It truly saddens me that Donnelly voted against this - how can anyone be? It makes no sense to me and I wish I could take my vote back for him. I voted to make a change in this country and it upsets me that the bs continues with him in office.

The members of the GLBT community need to stop hiding in the closet and let your voice be heard! If you want change you need to get involved!

I do not know if you will be there for the Senate
vote on Senate bill 209.
I am not a bit happy with the unanimous vote of the house with this. Provides we give every provisional voter a notice on what to do to make their vote count. (They are given a copy of instructions at the polls when they do their provisional) The even worse part to this bill is that if the Clerk does not do this they are subject to criminal penalties. NOW-DO YOU THINK THAT IS RIGHT? the next thing they will be doing is having the Clerk go to their homes and bring them in to fill out their paperwork again.

Hope this e-mail finds you well. Think of you often, Bette

Congressman Joe Donnelly voted against the bill, though many of the folks agree to have that bill. Even though many folks are against the Congressman but still they were able to have a concern on him. Congressman Joe Donnelly was able to share his thought about his votes as well as he was able to explain his views about the bill. The important thing is, this for the good.