On Tuesday I posted to Bilerico-Indiana about an anti-gay flier sent by the Indiana Democratic State Committee on behalf of State Representative candidate Andy Schemenaur. The mailing, paid for by the state party, called for "a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as existing only between one man and one woman."
This flies directly in the face of the state party platform, the national Democratic Party platform, public statements from the Democratic presidential ticket, and recent efforts by the state party to kill a state amendment. Since the flier had been passed around via e-mail for a couple weeks with nary a word from any local LGBT or party leadership, I called on them to stand up and publicly condemn the flier. Soon after I posted, the story got wings nationally.
I'm proud to say that today not only has the local Stonewall Democrats made their "displeasure" known, but so have the National Stonewall Democrats and the DNC.
The first organization to respond was the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In a statement to PageOneQ.com editor Mike Rogers, the DNC rejected the campaign material while reminding voters of Barack Obama's differences with Schemenaur. Rogers is a former contributor to Bilerico Project.
"While this flier is disappointing, it's a reminder that while we have made great progress to ensure equal rights and protections under the law for every American, clearly there is still more education that is needed even within our party. But we cannot let this deter us from electing a democratic president.
A vote for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party is a vote for equal rights and protections under the law. Just last year, Indiana Democrats kept a discriminatory marriage amendment off the ballot. History shows that when we elect Democrats there is great progress toward equality and fairness, which is why we need to focus on electing Barack Obama our next President."
The National Stonewall Democrats also responded quickly to my request for a statement. Spokesman John Marble talked with me this morning about the flier and gave the following statement:
"The Indiana Democratic Party has been a good working partner with the LGBT community in the past. However, paying for any sort of anti-gay campaign piece is wrong. The Stonewall Democrats are working to resolve this situation."
Once the national organization had expressed concern about this unnecessary slap in the face of the LGBT community, the Indiana Stonewall Democrats also gave me a statement. Chapter Vice President Lori Morris gave me the official response from the local political group.
"The Indiana Democratic Party has worked hard to include the LGBT community as an important constituent group. We have an ongoing good working relationship within the Party. That said, we are not happy with these types of divisive mailers. We are making our displeasure known to the Party."
I tried to get a statement from the state Party about the flier before posting my first article with no success. Spokeswoman Lauren Smith asked for time to review the mailing before making a statement, but has never issued a statement on the Party's behalf. Rogers was also unsuccessful at getting an official statement from Smith.
When asked why the state party would print a document that could be construed as divisive, and if it stood by the mailers or would apologize for them, Indiana Democratic Party spokesperson Lauren Smith declined to comment.
Other local LGBT Advocacy groups have also remained strangely silent.
The Reality Is...
The reality is bleak. While I stress the importance of good communication often on Bilerico Project, this is - yet again - another case of the "circle the wagons" mentality that all too often infects organizations.
Sources tell me that more than likely the person who approved Schemenaur's mailing piece, didn't even see it. Instead, they probably saw an invoice and simply cut a check. Rather than admit their mistake and explain the process, the Party has apparently decided to clam up and hope the story blows over.
Local LGBT orgs, however, sat on the flier for weeks without uttering a peep. In fact, the flier was commonly circulated amongst political insiders and lobbyists. While I realize that the state Party is a dedicated friend to the LGBT community, our local organizations cannot hesitate to call them on the carpet for a bad decision.
While we need a majority in the House of Representatives to keep another divisive marriage amendment off the table, Andy Schemenaur clearly states that he would support an amendment just as his opponent did (as shown in this Indiana Action Network poster from 2004). I don't doubt for an instant that the local groups condemn the mailing, but by not standing up and publicly denouncing the campaign piece, they are tacitly endorsing the occasional gay bashing in pursuit of a greater goal.
That is unacceptable.
This appears to be a simple case of oversight and miscommunication. If the Party had actually checked the mailings before paying the bill, they would have seen the glaringly obvious and nixed it. Unlike any other constituent group, it is still considered okay in some circles for Democratic politicians to smack the LGBT community around. The Party needs to be vigilant for just such occasions.
On the other hand, if the Party isn't doing it's due diligence, then our local LGBT organizations other than Stonewall Democrats need to be willing to point out problems and issues. If we can't count on our leadership to support our community, who can we trust?
It's time Indiana had a real statewide organization dedicated to LGBT rights and issues. We need to stop relying on lobbyists and backdoor friends with other priorities and closer friends. We need a group with full-time employees supported by the community, but currently donations to local groups is pitifully small.
Indiana's queer community needs to take a hard look at our future. If no one is giving our issues the diligence they deserve - neither organizations nor the Party - we have to take the bull by the horns. Many other states have equality organizations with paid staff and offices; we can do no less.
It's time for the Indiana LGBT community to stand together and organize the dedicated representation we deserve.
(Crossposted from The Bilerico Project)