Guest Blogger

Guest post by Congressman Brad Ellsworth

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 10, 2007 8:30 AM | comments

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

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Representative Ellsworth 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 Joe Donnelly, guest blogged yesterday. 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.

Congressman Brad EllsworthThank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts on H.R. 1592, The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. I know most readers will not agree with my opposition to this bill, but I appreciate your willingness to listen to an alternative viewpoint.

This was a difficult decision for me because I did not want my opposition to the bill to be perceived as an endorsement of violence against the gay community. I have spent a career in law enforcement trying to keep all members of the community safe, and do not condone violence against any person. I have seen first hand the impact violent crimes have on victims and communities, and I believe that those who commit these crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But my experiences also taught me that most violent crimes are based on hate of one kind or another, and passing legislation doesn't change that. Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions. It doesn't stop an individual's destructive impulses or dangerous misperceptions. And, most importantly, I don't believe legislation will prevent people from committing heinous acts of violence against others.

As I was making this decision, I contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties of the 8th District because I wanted to hear from the people who investigate and prosecute violent crimes every day. I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere.

When I came to Washington, I promised to always listen to the people of the 8th District to make the best decision possible. Supporting this legislation would have meant ignoring the advice of the Sheriffs and prosecutors, the wishes of an overwhelming number of 8th District constituents, and my own law enforcement experiences.

That being said, I haven't forgotten my background. I spent the past 24 years protecting communities from violent crime, regardless of the motive. I will continue that work in Congress by working to provide local law enforcement with the tools necessary to fight all crimes.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to discuss this piece of legislation with you. I want to encourage readers to continue this discussion by contacting my office about issues important to the gay community, including workplace discrimination and domestic partner benefits. I need to hear all sides of these issues to make the best decision possible, and my door is always open to the people of the 8th District.

Congressman Brad Ellsworth
Indiana's 8th Congressional District

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Melancholy Acceptance | May 10, 2007 9:09 AM

I've read both Brad's and Joe's posts now. They are similar.

Of course I'm disappointed in both.

But here's the other take on this:

Each Congressman greeted you with dignity and respect.

Each Congressman accepted and promptly responded to your invite to post.

Each Congressman has missed nary a vote since their swearing-in, including important Iraqi war votes.

And, most importantly--each Congressman is THERE.
Contributing to a majority whose leadership powers give them the right to even HOLD hearings that prior leadership squelched previously.

We should keep working on Joe and Brad. Each is a work in progress. Each also comes from a much-more conservative district than the 7th. Each needs to be re-elected.

Assuredly, the alternatives were, and will be, much worse. And I sense each Congressman will listen to continued input on this issue. With open ears.

Sadly, whatever your intentions, Congressman, voting against H.R. 1592 was an endorsement of continuing violence against GLBT people - since it's relatively non-controvertial that the 1969 Hate Crimes statute already covers other protected groups. Voting no sends the message that violence against me or any other member of my community is less important to Congress and to the federal government than violence motivated by race, religion, ethnic identity, or gender.

I think I share with most readers here a great debt to you for replacing John Hostettler in Congress - you've been such a massive improvement it's hard to believe. Being "not John H." doesn't last forever though, and GLBT voters and their friends and family are an important part of the Democratic coalition, even in the 8th District.

Bil, could you try to get Rep. Hill to guest-blog about his courageous decision to vote FOR H.R. 1592? We, and Indiana's other two new Congressmen, might learn something!

Morgan, I'm working on something similar. *grins*

Rep Ellsworth, I appreciate your agreement to try and explain your position on the Hate Crimes Legislation, however, I'll ask you the same question I asked Rep Donnelly. Why should a swastika or the word KIKE etched into the front door of a Jewish family receive more scrutiny than the word FAGGOT on the door of a gay family?

Race, Religion, National Origin, and Sex are all protected groups. At least one of those is a choice. Why should a law enforcement individual have the right to turn a blind eye based on his bias against gay people to a bashing victim? That's what this legislation would prevent.

I'm sure the LGBT people of the 8th district don't appreciate being thrown under the bus of equality as it speeds on without them.

Sometimes it takes a spine to stand up for what's right in the face of what's popular which clearly is missing from your back.

Still your candor is appreciated but I would hope that you will respond.

Daimeon Pilcher

"This was a difficult decision for me because I did not want my opposition to the bill to be perceived as an endorsement of violence against the gay community."

Sadly, that's exactly what's happened.

I have to ask this question again: since you feel hate crime laws do not prevent violent acts, will you be attempting to repeal the current Federal Hate Crime law? My guess is that you will not. Your vote says that you wish for the LGBT community to remain second-class citizens, undeserving of equal protection under the law. Yes, everyone knows hate crime laws do not stop hate crimes. However, I'll worry about changing peoples' minds once I have equal protection. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not immediately change peoples' minds, but it granted a lot of groups, and not just minorities, equal protection. When you don't even have the law on your side, tolerance and acceptance are the least of your worries. Your vote says to your community that the LGBT community is not worthy of equal protection, implying that since gays are not worthy of this protection, it is okay to hate/discriminate/commit violent acts against us. As a registered Democrat in the State of Indiana, I am ashamed of you as a Democrat. You have done a grave disservice to the LGBT members of your community.

Rep. Ellsworth: here is an example of our reality. This is what we will have to continue to deal with because you do not feel that we, the gay community, are deserving of protection under Hate Crime legislation.

As far as I can tell, this guy is yet another pol who didn't mind the gay money and votes, but when it comes time to throw a bone...he'd rather let the dog starve.

The explanation is a lie. And here is how you can tell. If Ellsworth really believes the stuff he is saying, then shouldn't he introduce a bill to roll back all hate crimes laws?

On another, albeit totally unrealted, note... Someone ought to train the man how to hire a web designer... His congressional site is really, really bad. Very 1996.

Congressman Ellsworth,

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 "most violent crimes are based on hate of one kind or another."

I'm glad to see you don't take as read that all violent crimes are based on hate, engaging in the gross simplification of the complicated issue that is violent crime that Congressman Donnelly was.

I would have hoped, however, by virtue of your experience with law enforcement, that you recognized of those violent crimes that are born of hate, there's a difference--within which lies the 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.

Jeff Newman | May 10, 2007 10:12 AM

Congressman, with all due respect, I have to take issue with the statement that you followed "the wishes of an overwhelming number of 8th District constituents" when in fact an overwhelming number of Hoosiers support this legislation. The is from Ellen Andersen's comment to Congressman Donnelly's post:

"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."

I simply can't believe that the 8th district differs that much from the rest of the state.

Again respectfully, if nothing else is learned from this I hope you do come to understand that this business of counting phone calls is simply not valid. Do we really want legislative decision making to be made based on American Idol style polling?

It's well known that the religious right knows how to play the game very well to make it appear that phone calls are coming from constituents when in fact they have stirred up a national base and instructed them who to target.

There is no point repeating what has already been posted, but I do hope you'll take a moment to read the comments from Congressman Donnelly's post, there are some excellent points made (please disregard the disrespectful ones, such is the nature of some anyonymous commenters). I was particularly impressed with the comment about terrorism. When crimes are committed with the purpose of instilling fear in a group, it is indeed terrorism.


Your comments about talking to the Sheriffs don't seem to get to the correct point. You said "and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer".

By elevating a crime motivated by hate of gay people to a higher level, you take a small step towards equality. While it doesn't directly affect the ability of the Sheriffs in your District to stop those who commit acts of violence because of their own deep hatred, he offers them additional resources to successfully prosecute them.

Beyond sending a message of support to gays and lesbians, it is also a sign of leadership because you can send a message to the larger public that supporting equality is acceptable. Should a veto come your way, you should consider being a bigger person and voting to override that veto.

I received an email at my blog from a victim of a hate crime. He has a blog that tells his story. You should read it. You can find it at It is short, but emotional and you might can learn a little something from it.

Lane Hudson

[ED NOTE] Today's Coffee & Toast quote is from the same blog Lane mentions.

Congressman, with all due respect, I too encourage you to remember that while the 'United States relies on representative democracy, its system of government is much more complex than that. It is not a simple representative democracy, but a constitutional republic in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law.'

Hopefully, Indiana will take the opportunity to elect a REAL Democrat next year.

Rep. Ellsworth,
I lived in your district from birth through college years. Its a dangerous, intolerant place to be if you're gay. I'm not surprised that the county sherriffs and prosecutors in that district deemed this law unneccessary because its a "good old boys" network and they don't take too kindly to "faggots" in those parts. Many parts of that district don't welcome people of color either. The "N" word and the word "faggot" are part of the local vernacular and no one raises an eyebrow.

I am glad you are in congress instead of Hostettler (I even convinced my republican relatives to vote for you over him) and you have a chance to make a difference for that district, but you blew it with this vote. You sent a message that has been loud and clear in that district for generations - no one cares what happens to the fags. You can say that wasn't what you were thinking but you pandered to the religious right. You knew that your intolerant district has such a small GLBT constituency that the repercussions would be negligable.

You were in fear of the fallout from the religious base. The same religious base who is included in hate crimes protection. You were in fear of what might happen to you if you voted in favor of this bill. The same fear that keeps GLBT citizens from living in, or even travelling through your district.

Race, Religion, National Origin, and Sex are all protected groups.
This is not accurate.

Race, color, national origin, and religion are federally recognized categories with regard to hate crimes, specifically the government's authority to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated attacks. Sex is not.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592) sought to include the disabled, members of the LGBT community, and women.

Yes, all violent crimes are "hate crimes" in the sense that malice is often involved. But crimes whose pretext is ideological intollerance have a wider impact on society, and society is entitled to protect itself against the consequences of those additional harms by treating this sort of crime as different and more serious.

Hate crimes laws don't just exist to protect minorities. They protect the entire community. When a hate crime occurs in a town, city or state, the reputation of all the good people and businesses in those areas suffer. Ask the people in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho or Casper, Wyoming, or Plano, Texas - places now permanently associated with infamous hate crimes. Smart, productive people are afraid to go to those communities to visit, live or start businesses because a single, horrible act of violence made them feel unwelcome, and the community itself then made no formal statement in law to declare that kind of behavior unacceptable.

Hate crimes laws are society's way of telling victimized groups that the vast majority considers them welcome and valued, and that hatred on the basis of who someone is or what they look like is unacceptable. If you want to promote diversity and the social/economic benefits that brings with it, hate crimes laws are good public policy.

Congressman Ellsworth, thanks for being willing to share your thought with us so directly and allowing us to respond. Whatever our differences, it's encouraging to see our representatives making strong efforts to engage us.

In addition to Melissa McEwan's excellent comments, let me say that the idea of all crimes involving hate of one kind or another is rather weak. Surely you know that not all crimes, not even all violent crimes are motivated by hate.

The point of recognizing certain crimes as "hate crimes" against groups comes from sad chapters in our nation's history when local prosecutors and police would not prosecute crimes against minority communities. Certainly you understand that there is a reluctance even today in some locations to vigorously prosecute crimes against members of the LGBT community or even women.

Really, though, the problem is terminology. "Hate crime" is a terribly vague term. What this legislation addresses is acts of terrorism, plain and simple. When a bomb is placed at a women's clinic, when a gay man is murdered for being gay, when a black man was taken from a jail cell (before a trial) and hanged on a tree in the town square - all of these are examples of terrorism, of violence intended not only to hurt the individual but also to send a message to the other members of that community.

If we are truly to fight the scourge that is terrorism, then we must be willing to recognize it when our fellow citizens use terror tactics and prosecute them accordingly.

Rep. Ellsworth - again I am posting here as the mother of a gay son. To tell you the truth, I don't care what your constituents think. They don't have a gay child. They don't worry about their gay child. They don't fear that he could get beaten up or worse. And yes, maybe including the GLBT population in the Hate Crimes Bill won't decrease harm possibly being done to them. But it will send a message that this type of behavior is wrong. It will send the message that if someone does do harm to a GLBT person, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Rep. Ellsworth, you apparently don't have a gay child. You don't fear for your children's safety on a daily basis. You don't remember the story of Matthew Shepard and the agony he and his family endured. The people who call you to say they don't endorse the hate crimes bill don't have these fears. They go to bed knowing their children are safe. So by voting against this bill, not only are you hurting the GLBT population, but you are hurting thousands of their family members. How's that for numbers?

So he talked to cops and lawyers and not to the Gay community? Sorry, that doesn't wash. Not at all. I am very disappointed in everyone who voted against this.

It may be true that it won't lower crime against Gays in the near term, BUT it would give the LGBT community a legal means to address hate crimes committed against them.

Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions. It doesn't stop an individual's destructive impulses or dangerous misperceptions. And, most importantly, I don't believe legislation will prevent people from committing heinous acts of violence against others.

With all due respect, Congressman, you're totally missing the point.

At risk of overstating the obvious, laws against rape haven't prevented more rapes from occurring. Laws against murder haven't prevented murders from being committed. Laws against theft, vandalism, fraud, etc... one could go on. Does that mean, in fact, that those laws are without value, since they've failed to completely wipe out the things they were designed to combat?

Hardly. Because as should be very obvious, having a law on the books does not simply erase the undesirable behavior from existence. Rather, the law sends a message about what will be done to those who transgress. It's both symbolic (what is and is not acceptable) and indicative (regarding the consequences for undertaking such an action).

So, to say that Hate Crimes Legislation is pointless based on the fact that people will continue to commit crimes motivated by hate is a facile, but deeply flawed, answer. Of course people will continue to commit such crimes; that's why we want a law to deal with those who do!

It's very frustrating to see legislators and/or law enforcers, the very people who should know best of all what laws are for, espouse the absurd notion that the only law worth making is one that would completely overcome the problem being dealt with. It ignores the notion that some improvement is better than no improvement, and that declaring a problem intractable is not any kind of solution.

You mentioned that other sheriffs indicated that this law would not be a useful enforcement tool for them. Again, a facile deflection which ignores the fact that other aspects of the justice system - attorneys, prosecutors, judges - may make use of the greater penalties associated with the hate crimes provision. These laws could have outcomes beyond those that local law enforcers foresee.

Now, if you want to argue about the law's merit in terms of enforcibility, that is another argument, but one I have yet to see convincingly advanced. Given that existing hate crimes laws have been around for a while now, I suspect it can be shown that hate crimes charges can be made to stick, and difficulty to argue otherwise.

Instead, it sounds to me as though you have concluded that extending hate crimes protections to LGBT citizen is something not worth doing, and that you are trying to rationalize the decision after the fact by minimizing its potential impact.

LGBT citizens have little reason to trust the status quo. Hate crimes legislation won't solve everything, but they're a step in the right direction. Yet you voted for business-as-usual.

Thank you for taking the time to listen. I just hope it wasn't time wasted for either of us.

"Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions."

You claim to have a background in law enforcement, yet you've apparently never heard of "deterrence"?

Shame on you.

Dear Rep. Ellsworth,

The question before you was not about enforcement, should criminals be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but what that extent should be. The cavil that all, or most, crimes are based on hate is a red herring that willfully distorts the purpose of the proposed bill. That is the spin of the hate mongers, and you should not mindlessly repeat it. Legislation can and does change emotions. The law indicates what is, and is not, permitted in our society. Your vote made a statement, regardless of your intent, that GLBT folk are less worthy of protection that other minority groups who have such protection. As a former law enforcement official, you must know that such statements inform the work and the priorities, as they should, of law enforcement personnel.

If you really do not believe that "legislation will prevent people from committing heinous acts of violence against others", then what is the purpose of laws against robbery, rape and murder?

You contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors and heard from some whose opinion you say you believed was sincere. Was their opinion informed? Had they read the bill? Did they understand its purpose?

In conclusion, you have, here, gone on record as believing that GLBT folk who live or travel in your district are less worthy of protection than members of other groups, that people who target them should not feel that they are doing anything wrong, that GLBT folk are not really equal, in your eyes, to the rest of the community. That law enforcement officials in your district feel the same way, should be cause for concern, proof that the legislation is needed, not justification for inaction.

Congressman Ellsworth, thank you for presenting the reasons why you voted NO on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and for allowing us to respond. There are some derogatory comments in the blog and I hope you will disregard them. They are posted in anger and frustration by people who have reached their breaking point in trying to work with our politicians to achieve what everyone in this country deserves, equal rights.

I've read all of the comments on this post as well as Congressman Donnellys' and rather than reiterate some really good points I would like share some additional thoughts for you to consider.

The fact of the matter is that hate crimes are alive and well in Indiana. In 1992 a report prepared by an Indiana Advisory Committee for the information and consideration of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Commission (USCCR) found that hate crime was on the rise in Indiana. "The Indiana Advisory Committee to the USCCR recognized that hate crime was a serious problem in the State."

As I replied to Congressman Donnelly, your view that all violent crime is born of hate is oversimplified. 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. Furthermore, if all violent crime were the same then all violent crime would have the same exact penalties. As a professional with 24 years of experience in law enforcement you know this is not the case.

I also have a background in law enforcement and I know that sometimes bigotry lies within the ranks of those that are suppose to serve and protect people. Bias views can ONLY be overcome through education and training. An important part of the legislation you voted NO for provided Grant funds to law enforcement entities for just that purpose.

Can you please tell us with regard to the Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties as well as the county you resided as Sheriff over?
1. What specific diversity training courses were the officers, administrative staff, and prosecutors required to attend and at what frequency?
2. What specific hate crime training courses were your officers, administrative staff, and prosecutors required to attend and at what frequency?
3. What data collecting methodology and reporting was used to gather hate crime statistics in your district?

You stated: "As I was making this decision, I contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties of the 8th District because I wanted to hear from the people who investigate and prosecute violent crimes every day. I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere. "

I find this interesting in light of the fact that both the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA) AND the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) both endorsed and pressed for passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA). You were the Sheriff of Vanderburgh County, were you not a member of the National Sheriffs' Association?

Here is what the May 1, 2007 National Sheriffs' Association newsletter had to say:

"NSA worked closely with Senator Kennedy to introduce this legislation addressing hate crimes...addressed the media, ... to express our support for the measure.

The LLEHCPA would provide much need tools for the federal government to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes and offer assistance to local law enforcement to investigate such crimes.

Federal hate crimes legislation would help combat bias crimes in two ways. First, LLEHCPA would eliminate a serious limitation under the current law. Right now, the federal government can only be involved if a victim was attacked while engaging in specific federally-protected acts. These acts include voting and attending a public school. However, if the hate crime occurred in another context, the federal government would not be able to investigate or prosecute this crime. This prevents the federal government from investigating and prosecuting many hate crimes-even if the local law enforcement agency is unable to further investigate and prosecute such crimes due to limited resources.

Second, this bill would expand the current federal hate crimes laws to include bias-motivated crimes against people because of sexual-orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. Currently these crimes are not covered under the federal hate crimes laws. Neither the Department of Justice, nor any of its bureaus or divisions, is able to investigate or prosecute these crimes and is a glaring hole in current statue."

I care a great deal about this state and your desire to serve in Congress tells me that you do to. The political tone and leadership in this state MUST change. Special interest groups such as Advance America, Indiana American Family Association, and others are making a vibrant livelihood oppressing the GLBT community. They are well organized and greatly outnumber the resources of the GLBT community. Their "mission accomplished" is quite easy. GLBT people work, pay taxes, serve in the military and die for our country, have families and are raising children. If sexual-orientation is a choice why on earth would anyone in their right mind subject themselves to the bigotry and discrimination they face everyday.

I hope you will take the time to check out this link on the IACP website, there is a wealth of information pertaining to hate crimes and the need for hate crimes legislation.

I hope you will reconsider your vote when President Bush vetoes the LLEHCPA and that you will also vote YES on Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as well as vote to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

Mr. Ellsworth,

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. Ellsworth, 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,


"But my experiences also taught me that most violent crimes are based on hate of one kind or another, and passing legislation doesn't change that. Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions. It doesn't stop an individual's destructive impulses or dangerous misperceptions. And, most importantly, I don't believe legislation will prevent people from committing heinous acts of violence against others."
I'm kind of shocked and dismayed at this. This bill clearly isn't about stopping hate crimes, but prosecuting and punishing them. Crimes aren't prosecuted equally now. Chanelle Pickett's murderer got 2 years for strangling her to death.  Joel Robles murderer received a sentence of four years  for repeatedly stabbing her.  If equal justice for GLBT citizens were the norm, this legislation wouldn't be needed.
"As I was making this decision, I contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties of the 8th District because I wanted to hear from the people who investigate and prosecute violent crimes every day. I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere."

With all due respect Representative Ellsworth, given your history with law enforcement, I'm sure you are aware that the justice system isn't blind. Some investigations get priority over others, if simply for economic reasons. This bill takes some of that pressure off of local law enforcement through grants and other measures.

"When I came to Washington, I promised to always listen to the people of the 8th District to make the best decision possible. Supporting this legislation would have meant ignoring the advice of the Sheriffs and prosecutors, the wishes of an overwhelming number of 8th District constituents, and my own law enforcement experiences."
Exactly how many hate crimes has your district encountered? What are the ratios of solved and prosecuted cases to those that are gathering dust? The GLBT community doesn't want more protections than anyone else, we simply want to be treated equally. That clearly isn't happening today. If you need any proof of that here in Indiana, look no further than Crothersville.


Since it is your opinion that the laws elevating punishment for crimes against certian groups are ineffective. Will you be joining Congressman Donnelly in co-sponsoring a bill to repeal hate crimes legislation already on the books?

A response is requested

burnt toast | May 10, 2007 3:08 PM

"... Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions."

This legislation was not designed to prevent anyone from thinking or emoting. It was designed to deter them from ACTING illegally. As an ex-agent of law enforcement, you clearly know the difference and to cloud this debate by applying false rationale is ludicrous at best.

"... I don't believe legislation will prevent people from committing heinous acts of violence against others."

No legislation prevents anyone from committing an act. What legislation does, is to provide a deterrent, by instructing community as to what is tolerated and which acts are proscribed. Without legal sanctions against hate crimes, you endorse those acts by providing tacit approval. It makes no difference what you personally "believe". Without legal sanctions against hateful acts, you concede crime as approved behavior.

"... those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere."

Yes, it IS vital to have law enforcement support for any legislation. But we all know that real change may require a great deal of time and effort to gain that support. The reasons for those lengthy efforts are due almost exclusively to the systemic way that bigotry is built into governance... and that includes law enforcement.

If police are unwilling to follow the letters or intents of laws, then it is up to the judicial process to intercede, and in the case of federal laws that are not being complied with or loosely enforced, it falls upon the US Department of Justice to facilitate in ways that leave no uncertainty to your local or state law enforcement systems... just as was the case for race-based hate crimes.

More than any other institutional reason, the necessity to replace law enforcement officials who willingly ignore the law in favor for following their own personal beliefs, leads me to agree that you would face open opposition from bigots within the system. That is no basis of argument for joining their ranks.

Your excuses leaves me dumbfounded. Pandering to reticent law enforcement is beyond the pall. Your dismissiveness towards a vulnerable sector of your community who vitally needs your support, is very telling.

You are not an agent of law enforcement... you are a legislator. Legislate in favor of those who need real legal protection. The consequences for failing to do so, may have a larger impact on your political career than you can now imagine. Recalibrate your moral compass.

Thanks Melissa, I apologize for that error. All the more reason for a YES vote!

Liz Farrar | May 10, 2007 3:42 PM

As a staff member for Congressman Ellsworth, he asked me to monitor reader's comments throughout the day and relay them to him later today. Although the Congressman is unable to respond to each comment personally in this forum, as he said in his guest post, he welcomes your input as Congress considers other issues important to the gay community.

Thanks Liz, for responding for the Congressman. It's good to see that he's paying attention to the thread.

As per your repeated advisement about other issues important to the gay community, I'd suggest that commentors use the opportunity to explain to the Congressman why they think ENDA is also important and why the Congressman should vote in favor of it.

Jeff Newman | May 10, 2007 6:58 PM

A couple of quick points that I think (hope) have yet to be made in this thread:

1. The religious right vehemently opposes ANY legislation that gives legal recognition to the fact that there is such a thing is gay (or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or anything other than straight). If there is no sound argument for their opposition, they'll make one up as they've done with much of their falsehoods about this bill. Be prepared for the onslaught from these people every time a GLBT issue comes before you.

2. You (the congressmen) reacted to the overwhelming number of calls from the religious right. Even though you listened to them and voted as they wanted you to, every one of them will vote for your Republican opponent in the next election. Every last one of them.

Dear Congressman Ellsworth,
I do appreciate that you did take the time to explain yourself.However in my view your response was poor.
I can't add much to what has already been said but,if sexual orientation and gender identity is not protected like race,color or religion.
That is showing that some seem to be entitled to protection of their rights & freedoms while others aren't.
As a citizen of the 8th district here.I feel you made a decision based on organizational beliefs not one of freedom and justice for all.Which includes minority groups.
As you know Indiana is one of only five states in the country that doesn't have a hate crimes law of it own.That's why it's essential for their to be a federal law.Hopefully you have learned from this mistake and will introduce a hate crimes law for Indiana and vote yes the next time the federal bill comes along.
In not voting for federal protection and Indiana not having a state law.It is showing and giving potential employers a reason to locate elsewhere.
Hate and discrimination is not only wrong in a free country.It's unprofitable as well.

Ellen Andersen | May 10, 2007 8:13 PM

Dear Ms. Farrar,

I'm simultaneously pleased that Rep. Ellsworth took the time to post his thoughts at Bilerico, happy that you are monitoring the comments, and frustrated that that this process appears to be one of serial monologue rather than dialogue.

It's good that you're checking reviewing the comments on behalf of the Congressman. It'd be much better if the Congressman or his staff would respond to some of the general points made in the comments. While I understand that the Congressman can't respond personally to every blog post, a number of commenters have brought up the same similar subjects. Three in particular spring to mind: the special harms caused crimes designed to prevent people from participating fully in the community, the social message sent by hate crimes legislation, and the social message sent by the refusal to pass hate crimes legislation. Might the Congressman find the time to respond to those broad general topics?

Ellen Andersen

Well, gee, I guess Congressman Ellsworth got the same briefing as Jeff Thompson. We are back to a thought crime.

It's not the crime, it's the sentencing.

I'm not even a LEO, Lawyer, or Judge and I know that.

We base sentencing on intent ALL THE TIME. That is why there are so many different kinds of murder. That is why Mr. Record went from a C felony to a B. That should be why those involved in murdering Aaron Hall should not just be charged with "assisting a criminal".

Kyle Flood | May 11, 2007 12:14 AM

I am a native of Indiana, and I was SO happy that two freshman democrats were being sent to Congress to vote for hoosiers like me. However, I am VERY upset with these votes - I would rather have a gay-friendly republican in this position.

Wilson46201 | May 11, 2007 8:09 AM

A gay-friendly Republican congresscritter would NOT have voted for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker -- the GOP kept all gay-friendly legislation bottled up from reaching the floor -- GOP leadership pushed antigay, bigoted bills.

While we might be upset at Donnelly and Ellsworth, they both voted for Pelosi as Speaker thus allowing gay-friendly legislation to get a fair hearing at last.

Enjoy your term Mr Ellsworth you had better hope the right wingers support you, because if you are expecting the support of the gay community and their families you will be sorely disappointed. I will remind you congressman, every household in Indiana and America has gay members, and their families love them..

For you to come here and toss a crumb is a disgusting second assault, this time on our intelligence. You made a bad decision congressman and it will come back and bite you.

Sadly, you voted against a just bill. EVERYONE deserves protection under the law. While true, passing legislation doesn't necessarily change the way people think, it protects those very people who are attacked and there would be punishment for their actions. Shame on you for voting the way you did.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act adds gender and disability as protected classes. Under our current national hate crimes legislation, gender and disability are not pcovered. So it's not only the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community that loses if this doesn't pass. And don't forget, the loudest opponents of this bill are people who are already protected under national hate crimes legislation based on their religion.
Our current legislation is nearly 40 years old. It's time for an update.

Mary Perdue | May 12, 2007 7:55 PM

Brad - While I think it is great that you took the time to respon in this fashion I am disappointed in the vote and in the logic behind your vote.

"But my experiences also taught me that most violent crimes are based on hate of one kind or another, and passing legislation doesn't change that. Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions. "

Let's say Kate is a victim of a violent crime - her boyfriend beats her up. Does he go around making jokes about all "Kates" needing to be beat up and get snickers and support from the bar? Do other "Kates" get singled out and victimized for being a "Kate" just because Kate was a victim of violent crime?

No - of course not. And no one preaches from a pulpit that all Kates should be killed or burn in hell. Dobson doesn't send out advice on how to convert your Kate to a Kalissa and that if you don't, she's an abomination before God.

How many of the sherrifs and prosecutors that you spoke with have the time an resources to take on more cases and more work? Would that impact on their response (you know we have such a meth mess around Evansville that I am amazed anyone can do anything else). In any event - you talked to the wrong people.

Where were the victims of crimes in your discussions?

The legislation makes a difference in priorities, funding and in the very basic issue of public perception of what is and is not proper in the public forum. Inciting hatred for hatreds sake so that someone engaged in violence - not against a specific person they do hate or have a violent personal relationship with - but rather against someone who is different from them - is disturbing and should be addressed.

Courage is a calling.

becky miller | June 4, 2007 12:27 PM

i want to see something done in indiana about people who just need a little help from the welfare system. I recently lost my job and was refused any assistance,couldn't even get food stamps for my children,said my husband makes too much money.Hey for a family of four with rent and bills to pay and price of gas its hard. three years ago my husband and i both worked at the same place,with now warning the doors were closed,both of us losing our jobs.....Once again no help. I think we need a system put in tact that helps americans when they need help,not by telling us we can not qaulify because last year you" made this much. I mean my huband and I have always worked and payed taxes,yet still I am denied unemployment benifits. I still have not received an answer as to why even though I on countless times called the Inianapolis office . No one knows.