Tuesday, December 06, 2005

black ministers vs. the HRO

prop 622 is also known as the indianapolis human rights ordinance (HRO). among other things, it would ban discrimination within indianapolis based on sexual orientation or identity (though churches, for example, would be exempt). last night the city-county council's rules & public policy committee held a hearing about prop 622. advance indiana claims that GOP committee members boycotted the hearing, therefore there was no quorum, therefore there was no vote last night on the HRO.

it was reportedly a standing-room-only crowd, as many from the GLBT community showed up to testify, as did some of the usual anti-gay crusaders like advance america's eric miller. but the real buzz is about the black ministers who turned up:

In a marriage made in hell, leaders of the Christian right united with a group of black ministers to lead the charge against the HRO. The Christian right triumvirate of Eric Miller of Advance America, Curt Smith of the American Family Institute and Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana joined about a dozen African-American ministers in speaking against the HRO.

The union of these two distinct groups is quite a paradox. The Christian right once largely comprised the Ku Klux Klan, which ran Indiana politics during the early part of the 20th century, and which used its power to enact discriminatory laws against blacks, Catholics, Jews and any other group with which they morally disapproved. The Christian right, for example, supported the enactment of laws in Indiana and elsewhere banning interracial marriages.

A central theme of the black ministers' argument was that civil rights belonged to African-Americans alone, an argument which would have brought tears to the eyes of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of King's most famous quotes is that "No man is free until all men are free." King didn’t use any adjective to define "man" such as "black" or "Christian." One black minister, holding true to his Christian belief that "homosexuality is an abomination," said that the ministers speaking against the HRO represented "Christian" churches in contrast with the ministers speaking in favor of the HRO who he said were of "other denominations." In other words, if you don't oppose homosexuality, you are not a Christian according to this minister.

Borrowing a page out of the anti-gay bigoted Micah Clark, Republican 7th District congressional candidate RSR, whose campaign would have been better served by remaining more of a mystery, dropped jaws with his testimony. RSR argued that gays were "the most wealthy individual segment of Indianapolis’ economy," which demonstrates that "gays are not being denied employment and fair housing opportunities." Indianapolis Rainbow Chamber President Chris Douglas appropriately discredited RSR's testimony with legitimate economic analysis and noted that major business organizations such as the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce support the HRO. Anti-semites in this country have similarly used wealth to disparage Jews ala Adolph Hitler.

advance indiana also rightly points out that arguments that homosexuality is an unprotected/unprotectable lifestyle choice are pretty much demolished when you consider that religion is also a lifestyle choice. these ministers would never argue that their religion is not protected or that it would be fair for employers to fire them or deny them housing on the basis of their religion.

jeff newman at bilerico thinks that the presence of black clergy in the debate is an explicit political strategy spearheaded by eric miller, and offers an interesting suggestion on why these clergy members and black representatives fail to see the human rights issues involved in this sort of discrimination.

Recently, a white city-county councilor pointed out to me that one of the problems the GLBT community faces when talking to black councilors about discrimination is they tend to see people like me.

I am unmistakably a privileged white American. I am a business owner, I live a comfortable life in the suburbs, and I have two wonderful kids who will attend the college of their choice and grow up to be privileged white Americans just like their dad. When black councilors are approached by people like me, they can't help thinking "what are these people talking about? What does a guy like this know about discrimination?"

While this is a completely understandable reaction, what I hope these councilors are beginning to realize is that those GLBT people who truly fear (or outright suffer) discrimination simply can't represent themselves without great personal risk. No matter how strongly an individual may feel about a social situation, the fact is we all have to eat and survive in society regardless of whether that society is treating us fairly. There are many (I would argue most) GLBT people in this city who simply cannot speak out without facing serious real-life consequences, in particular the loss of their job. If you didn't already know this, there is nothing in state or local law to prevent an employer from looking an exemplary employee in the eye and saying "I just found out you're gay, and no queers are allowed here. You're fired."

they're both good posts, and both blogs are worth checking out for more on the HRO story and other such stuff.

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