Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One Step Forward: Proposition 622

The Indianapolis city/county council committee reviewing Proposition 622 that would protect disabled, gay and transgendered folks from being fired or denied housing because of who they are will go before the full council with a recommendation to pass. This after two VERY long public hearings. The one last night started at 5:30 p.m. and lasted until 10:00 p.m, with a packed house the entire time.

Some highlights:

One gay business and property owner was furious. He said that if this ordinance doesn't pass he will fire and evict every straight employee and tenant he has. The reason why? Because he can. The ordinance insures that no one can be fired or denied housing based on their sexual orientation. Without it, it is perfectly legal for him to fire people just because they are straight.

There was much denial on the opposition's side that there was a need for this. Several members of the public said they didn't believe the stories of people who testified about losing their jobs (some people more than once) because of who they loved. The sad thing is that even though MANY people testified on behalf of the proposition there were lots of folks who are scared to testify precisely because they will be harassed or fired. Even John, who works for a company that offers domestic partner benefits, was afraid to have any sign of me on his desk for this very reason. Imagine how someone working in a truly hostile work environment feels.

There were several Bible college students and conservative pastors there again last night. They typically say one of three things: gay people can and should change, if we protect gay people we will have to protect pedophiles (rapists, polygamists, etc.), the Bible is very clear that homosexuality is wrong.

I had actually planned to testify about something else, but after sitting through all of that I finally decided to share my perspective on the religious aspect. I told them that I'd been in a ministry for several years specifically to change and nothing close to that happened. I mentioned that the difference between being gay and being a pedophile, rapists, etc. is that in the latter there are victims and in imbalance of power, which makes these acts illegal and therefore NOT protected by law. As for the Biblical defense, I stated that the Bible is also very clear that slavery is acceptable (to the point that Paul even counseled a slave to return to his master), but that we had chosen to look at slavery in relationship to the major themes in the Bible rather than just as isolated verses. We should do the same now.

One person who blithers incoherently in favor of changing homosexuals is Dr. Vincent Alig. He references NARTH and Exodus, two organizations who NEVER track their success and failure rates with clients (I'd be in Exodus's failure camp) . Alig ignores 20 years of statements from every major medical association that state that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder. He tries to sound compassionate at the podium, but I sat by him and his wife at the last hearing and they both heckled every gay speaker who testified under their breath. What is scarier is that this extremely misinformed and mean-spirited self-purported expert is the father of council member Virginia Alig Cain! No wonder she is so messed up on this issue.

Another advocate for changing gays said that we should all get lobotomies. This same guy misquoted Dr. Robert Spitzer as saying gay people can and therefore should change. What Spitzer says is some people may be able to change and therefore each individual should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves what kind of psychological treatment to pursue, if any. I have always believed people should not be prohibited from trying to change. I needed to believe I could for awhile to get to a healthier place. And for some homosexual people, preconceived notions are so strong that struggling their way through a marriage is a better alternative than suicide and living alone forever. Believe me, a LOT of counseling is required to pull that off. Much of the time it doesn't work as many of my formerly married gay friends can tell you.

Proposition 622 opponent and council member Scott Schneider actually had the nerve to ask what will keep straight people from pretending they are gay in order to get special treatment. First of all not getting fired or evicted for being gay is hardly special treatment. Second of all, well, can someone even explain to me how pretending you are gay would protect your job if straight people are protected by the proposition as well?

Oh, and just so you know, cities like Lawrence, KS, Dayton, OH, and some town in West Virginia already have ordinances like this. I can't believe Indianapolis isn't even as progressive as Lawrence, where intelligent design is to be taught right alongside actual biology. If this doesn't pass, Indianapolis is in big trouble.


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