Tag Archives: Indiana

Happy Anniversary to my wife

Seven years ago  we ended our 18 year engagement , left Indiana to elope to Iowa. Actually our marriage  had been affirmed in a church years before. This wasn’t recognized legally.

See, we lived in Indiana. We actually met in Philadelphia in 1989.  We fell  in love later, in 1991. But marriage wasn’t legal.  Mind you many denominations and faith communities affirmed same gender marriage, but States did not. Then slowly they began to get our of religious side of marriage.

When Mike Pence and others point out they respect religious freedom they are full of it. They respect THEIR religious freedom and their interpretation. They are of courses entitled to it. But stop insulting those of us of many faiths who believe otherwise.

I was an ordained UCC minister serving as a Pastoral Associate in Indianapolis. And Indiana continued to discriminate.  My denomination was one of  the first mainline denominations to affirm same gender marriage. (in 1992 over 11 larger denominations did). Even though there is separation of Church and  State, we could not be married in our own Church. Our  pastor,   faith community I served in , our Church could not host our marriage. We wanted to be be  married IN our denomination- IN our church.

We began to look to Iowa, which had recently affirmed same sex marriages.  We spoke often with a UCC minister at Faith United in Iowa City. He properly counseled us about the commitment of marriage etc.  And we made a date. July 16th.

Without a word to my Senior Pastor on why I needed 2 days off,  and with only 2 friends, it was off to Iowa City!

Aside from Alice and Bill, we had no one coming to celebrate with us. In true extravagant welcome, Rev. Bruce Kittle asked if he could invite others.  We were thrilled. Faith UCC also provided music, a violinist ( a perfect addition as my wife plays violin). As it turned out, we were the first same gender marriage. And many of the guests were from local denominations- United Methodist, a rabbi, Presbyterian and others I forget. They witness our vows to one another. And the Church provided everything. And we were married.

Iowa was wonderful.  From the county clerks office , the  rehearsal dinner (the 4 of us),  and the wedding, there was never any bias toward us. We were married!

I never forget driving home and stopping at a rest area to upload wedding photos. A dear little old woman was manning the rest area  for hospitality. Iowa had WIFI in their rest areas in 2009. I hesitated as I struggled to get on the computer and she asked if she could help me. Discrimination runs deep..   here is this lil old lady and I  thought would she call me a sinner ?  or worse?

She was thrilled. She complimented me on my dress, and my beloved in her tux. She looked at each photo. I cried.

and then…. we crossed the State line  back to Indiana. And that Sunday, I announced our wedding. And for some in our congregation, and later my family, it sunk in how the laws of Indiana  were discriminating.  Many thought we were. Many thought we could.  And I do believe I was the first UCC  ordained openly  gay person to be legally married in the Indiana Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ,  if not the entire denomination.

Yet  what hurts , what resonates, is when the  the Pastoral Associate cannot be married in her own church.. ,,. then I remember Iowa and Faith UCC and look into my wife’s eyes and our wedding party. And I am happy.

Religious Freedom means all religions.

And love is love.

 

wedding 009

ACTION ALERT- GEO For Profit Prison plans still active Gary, IN

There is something called a Friday afternoon news dump– news items come out at end of day when comments and  statements are impossible to obtain.

Take note: The GEO Group and city officials have been working hard behind the scenes for over two years to build a For Profit detention center . Wednesday May 4th the Common Council is set to hear again, public testimony and vote.  More deals and MOUs are coming to light, despite feigned ignorance of those voting that they had no knowledge.

This weekend all major political candidates will be in Indiana , many in the Region. TAKE ACTION. show up- challenge- ask for public comments where they stand. Call their offices to clarify the information given,  Demand specifics about Indiana and about Gary. It IS Gary’s time.. we have much to offer instead of the empty promises of GEO group and back room dealings.

Bernie Sanders has always maintained he is against For profit prisons, saying at an Indpls rally “it is perverse for us to profit” from incarceration. Demand that Sanders addresses Gary and GEO

Hillary Clinton has taken money from GEO parent companies (or employees) demand she take a stand now, seeing the abuse and the economic havoc these facilities leave on communities when quotas cannot be filled.

Mike Pence and many GOP have also taken money from GEO- $20k to Pence this year alone. over $85k in the past 9 years. Ask questions!

John Gregg is mute on the issue.

Senatorial Candidates all over the state- some have taken contributions, some profited- some are publicly opposed. Eddie Melton declared his opposition weeks ago, others?

And perhaps most important. Educate yourselves. Don’t believe hype. Hell, don’t believe me –until you read the facts. And trust me, in the Region facts are hard to come by.

Basics: The day after the November 2015 election, the people of Gary first heard about the  GEO group plans for re-zoning land near our expanding airport for a  private prison.  (mind you GEO had been trying in nearby Hobart for years). Within  a few weeks, she  withdrew support .  GEO pulled the variance yet came back after new council seated. Most members  and city officials publicly stated they had no knowledge of any dealings.

Yet, thanks to FOIA, here is the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 23, 2015, before election GEO.

Note: while the numbers may sound good to a job thirsty market, there is NO contract with DOJ for inmates. None.  so it is empty wishful jobs– which is what we all want in the region- jobs.

I wouldn’t  be surprised  if some sort of contract would appear last minute- yet the MOU is based on occupancy rates. Many states have cancelled contracts with GEO, and cities have gone bankrupt as the cities are often on the hook for utilities, the tax increases, and property values diminish.  The Northwest Indiana Gazette, citizen journalism outlines these here. 

In November GEO withdrew their petition as citizens rallied. Blue collar, white collar, clergy collar.But when did they reapply? Who knows. But grab your scorecard.

At the April 12th Zoning Board meeting,  the vote was 3-1 against the variance. Testimony   included the chairman of the Airport Authority Board, former Lake county Sheriff, and Gary Diocesan Bishop Hying, Northwest Federation of Interfaith Clergy  chair Rev. Cheryl Rivera, and former Mayor Richard Hatcher- all against. 

The lone yes was from  BZA President Rinzer Williams.  Now Williams is also the legal counsel for the Gary Common Council.  At he next Common Council meeting, a tie vote on the proposal second reading essentially made it dead.

However, as the video from the April 19th common council meeting shows,  legal counsel, without being asked, approached a council member with information, That member, Herbert Smith, appointed to the council after a vacancy owns a Company that provides electronic monitoring – including to Lake County. Suddenly he brings to light  a section of the bylaws and then is helped word a motion to continue the discussion.

The citation from Atty Rinzer Williams deals with committee votes, not council votes. Williams reads from Bylaws

Sec 2-217.c (below) which states (midway through section)
 “.. in the event any ordinance is not reported favorably by a committee, prior to any meeting, any one member at the council meeting may request that the ordinance be brought out of committee at the next meeting, the ordinance shall be reported out favorably or unfavorably at the next regular meeting.”
This above section pertains to COMMITTEE reports and meetings.  This vote was  not a committee vote.  He states that by not sending the ordinance to committee that is the same as an unfavorable report BY the committee. It is not the same.
Bottom line- we need to maintain vigilance. Our state matters. Our city matters. Our lives matter. Stay connected and stay involved.
There are events and meetings all over the Region this weekend. DO your part-  we must be heard.

 

 

 

Will Indiana celebrate Leap Year by voting in discrimination

2016-02-28

No, it’s not RFRA part 2.   You see earlier this session Indiana Legislators had the chance to add civil rights protections for LGBT. But they refused to vote on it. So that misnomer of a RFRA “fix” only affects the 11 or so municipalities that have their own Human Rights Ordinances.  And Indiana had the opportunity to enact hate crime legislation- we are one of five states not to have this. But again, our Legislators  think that   Hoosiers value people differently  than those from the other 35 states – so no vote there either.

Let’s see… what discrimination could it possibly be? Actually it is related to RFRA., as RFRA was passed on two prongs- gay weddings with cupcakes and businesses going to hell because they offered health insurance that dared to cover reproductive issues. And so RFRA allows for business to not cover, or not serve people who use fertility drugs, want vasectomies, want birth control, want options,  want to adopt into their same gender family.

And that brings us to Leap year Monday.

HB 1337 “Abortion Matters” The choice to terminate a pregnancy is legal. It is also in a trap.  As in TRAP laws- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.  Thee laws put restrictions  on clinics and abortion providers  but exempt  others. Hence the discrimination.

And I am disgusted that Indiana legislators both men and women, Republicans and even some  Democrats  continue to discriminate against those who hold beliefs different than theirs. Especially when it comes to reproduction. THIS bill goes beyond being AntiChoice. It actually adds to the trauma of women who have a miscarriage or receive news that the fetus has an anomaly.

This bill   criminalizes providers who perform an abortion  due to fetal anomaly, sex, or race.

The bill defines fetal tissue. (which one would think is a responsibility of the medial community).The bill mandates that  said fetal remains  from abortion OR  miscarriage – must be buried or cremated. According to the bill  fetal tissue” includes tissue, organs,or  any other part of an aborted fetus. The provider needs to partner with a funeral home. (and no funeral Directors testified either)

It was amended that  if a woman receives diagnosis of fatal fetal anomaly ( meaning die with 3 months) she would be offered perinatal hospice, and all that would be explained. Except paying for this is not addressed.

So to recap- women who have a miscarriage or stillbirth already are counseled on their choice to allow the facility to dispose of the fetal tissue/stillbirth or choose a funeral home. This bill mandates it.

Indiana Legislators believe Hoosier women and families are incapable of making a moral and  informed choice on their bodies.  They may indeed have their own values and religious beliefs, but Legislators are putting into law their values and morality. Legis as Senators Liz  Brown, Young, Holdman and Banks, along with Rep. Cox, Macon, Bates and Judy feel women need to pay – literally- to bury a miscarriage.  It is a fact miscarriages can  resemble a  large blood clot. After a women miscarries at home, a surgical procedure is needed to insure no tissue remains. And now that will need to be buried or cremated via licensed Funeral Director.

People of faith realize the added trauma this bill will cause- the threat of prosecution for providers who know their patients history and respect their legal and civil right to choose termination.

And the bill is just bad legislation. During the one hearing which allowed public testimony, questions were asked . Sen. Stoops said “we have constitutional right” to abortion, yet we have religious mandates being proposed as law”,  There are many unknowns in the bill. There are aspects of the bill that have been enacted by other states, and are currently in litigation towards Supreme Court.

Scenario: TaySachs is a disease that affects the nervous system. Babies born with this will probably “live” past 3 months, but most die by ages 3-4 yrs. They become paralyzed, cannot respond to stimulation, go blind. It  can be diagnosed In Utero . Yet with this bill a woman would be forced to carry to term.  Sen Grooms said Hoosiers have exceptional Christianity. Forcing a woman and family to carry a baby for 40 weeks that will die within months when she prefers to terminate is not the Christianity of many clergy or Hoosiers.

And so again, Indiana Legislators talk about values and the “preborn”and will mandate their own values and beliefs on all of us. They will discriminate and trap women who have a civil and legal right to their health decisions. They will ignore the woman who testified about the trauma of this bill as well as ignore people of faith who who hold differing views.

Unless they hear from us. Unless we speak up.

Follow #HB1337 on twitter, Email your legislator. Call. Educate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fool me once… Indiana and discrimination

You know the adage “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…”? Well when it comes to the State of Indiana the fools are those who truly thought the Legislature would protect the rights of all GLBT. Wednesday January 27, 2016 there will be yet more legislation introduced to discriminate against  human rights  in the name of religion. Make no mistake- it is not binary. It is not religious rights vs. GLBT rights. It is the bigotry of certain legislators and organizations that are making their doctrinal views not only law, but some sort of skewed moral compass.

The sad thing is I could simply cut and paste any of my blogs and OP-Eds from the past decade and it would still be relevant.  THAT is how long my home state has been trying, and succeeding in discrimination. Though hundreds of faith leaders, myself included, have visited legislators, written letters, rallied, held prayer vigils, or testified in the General Assembly, it is to no avail as each year this bigotry and fear-mongering returns.

Last year RFRA was passed and then public outcry brought Indiana to the National Stage. Celebrities like George Takei  and Wilco took to social media to Boycott Indiana, GenCon threatened to  pull out of conventions, states banned travel to  our state. Major corporations such as Lilly, Cummins,  NBA and NCAA offered statements, even Disciples of Christ threatened to halt their conventions.

Then came the “fix”, and everyone disappeared.  Conventions returned. Boycott off.  Even some of the larger GLBT organizations claimed victory. Victory?? Seriously?  The “RFRA fix” only applied if you  lived in one of the  Indiana’s eleven municipalities with a Human Rights Ordinance regarding sexual orientation. And the majority of Hoosiers do not live with a HRO.

More importantly and virtually nonexistent in the RFRA discussion  is the discrimination of religious views on other aspects of life aside from sexual orientation. RFRA was passed on two prongs- GLBT human rights AND religious rights concerning the gamut of life.  The  RFRA fix didn’t touch on views of fertility, birth control, termination of pregnancy (for ANY reason- including ectopic pregnancies, rape, endangering the mother), vasectomy, vaccinations, end of life decisions..etc.

So here we are. In 2016. And new legislation is introduced. And it’s the same bigotry. The same binary thinking. That one’s religious views is equal to law. And it isn’t.

Respect religious views.  Our constitution doesn’t allow to mandate religious views.

But it’s Indiana. And if you are one of those surprised to see these bills being debated again—where did you go?  Have you not been paying attention?

 

 

 

Blue Collar-White Collar-Clerical Collar- people of Gary and Region unite against ForProfit Prison

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Despite being in the works for months, the day after the elections the citizens of Gary found out their Mayor of Gary and one council member supported GEO Corporation  in their building and operating a ForProfit Detention Center in Gary. GEO operated as it always does- behind the scenes, financial contributions to local politicians,   and purchasing land when trying to fast-track re-zoning. Oh, and dangling the promise of jobs to a distressed urban area.

GEO has played this scenario over and over. In Texas, Colorado, IL, and in the past two years in Lake County IN. Hobart successfully stopped their plans so GEO snaked over to Gary, IN.  Purchased land near the airport, received support and then– they met  the good people of Gary.

Yes, good people of Gary, We are well aware of the jokes, the punchline our city has become. Mostly from folks who never have been to  Gary.  Or ones stuck in the hard, horrible times of the past.  But  we who still  live and work in Gary and surrounding Region know Gary IS on the move upward and beginning a resurgence in the Arts, historical education, and revitalization of her diverse culture. We have hope.  Its hard, but we are moving .

Which is why white collar , blue collar  and clergy  collar  folks- women and men joined together to rise up against the proposed ForProfit Detention Center, No doubt the detention center would target people of color and hispanics in the Region. Despite what media may portray, it was a unified coalition that made their voices heard when given less than a weeks notice of the hearing with GEO before Gary’s City Council .  MIGHT 219 -Mass Incarceration and GEO Halt team  (219 is area code of the Region) , Black Lives Matter NWI, Clergy of  numerous denominations: Lutheran, Unitarian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ., and Interfaith Coalition members.  Black Lives Matter NWI, citizens from Hobart and Crete IL, and many more individuals came together. No GEO in Gary.

Of course all these organizations and individuals want jobs for the area! But we can see through the smokescreen.  And our voices were heard. The day after the council meeting where the GEO project was tabled, Wilson withdrew her support.  Her statement can be found here.

It’s not over.  The city council can still approve the project. Next steps:

1. SIGN the online petition to stop this endeavor.
2.Attend the Tuesday Nov. 17th Gary City Council Meeting. 5Pm Prayer vigil, 6 PM meeting.
3. Attend the Gary Zoning Board Monday Nov. 23 at 1PM
4. Educate yourself on the facts- not the smokescreen:

There are two main reasons why such a facility would be detrimental to Gary. (and anywhere)

1.While the  promise of jobs to a distressed region such as Gary is enticing. GEO cannot promise , in writing, 200-300 jobs. The jobs would be based on the inmate population. There is no contract in place with ICE or Department of Justice that guarantees the number of inmates GEO is proclaiming, Recently Texas and other states have pulled out of contracts with GEO as the city has become responsible for paying the remainder of the note on the prison. Property tax increases, utility increases, all have decimated many towns in Texas.

GEO already operates the New Castle facility in Indiana. They cite the number of jobs there as proof they fulfill promises. Except  GEO merely took over the operations and maintained 90% of the workforce.

2. Aside from the empty promises of jobs and tax incentives, GEO has been successfully prosecuted for sexual harassment charges as we as human rights violations. Currently at least 3 GEO facilities have hunger strikes due to inhumane conditions, The EEOC as recent as September 2015 is again filing suit against GEO

The citizens of Gary will not condone such practices in our backyard. We will not house nor be complicit in treatment of human beings in this manner.
And if these atrocities are not enough, consider this. Detention Centers are exempt from Freedom of Information Acts.  (See page 16 of the  Citizens for Ethics report.  Obtaining actual practices – staffing levels, training, etc. are difficult to ascertain. While they may say detainees are only held 10-14 days, the reality is there are indefinite holds ( months to years) then release with NO CHARGES being filed.

Finally, GEO has lobbyists and has donated heavily in Indiana. In the past 10 years, over $83,000 has been donated to various political candidates- mostly Governors Daniel and Pence. Over $9,000 was donated to Rep. Saunders, who coincidently represents the district where the New Castle facility was awarded a GEO contract.)
This is only a brief synopsis of why GEO is bad for Gary. It is equally detrimental elsewhere, as outlined in citizen journalist Northwest Indiana Gazette.

GEO will not stop. They still own land. They still contribute to politicians. They know the distressed cities in the area and in the US.   But love has won  this far. As a local activist says, it IS Gary’s time. The citizens of Gary come from immigrant stock, from displaced peoples, that proverbial melting pot. And we are called Region Rats for a reason- we stay till the end, we don’t give up, we scrap, and  we remember.

 

There’s more than GLBT in Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act

 

The Religious Freedom Reformation Act is now law in Indiana.

Before March 25th there was not a law which protected individuals and businesses from refusing service to anyone who held a religious view morally offensive to their own. And now, on July 1st, there is such a law. RFRA and its “fix”.

With all eyes and ears on the recent SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage it is imperative to know the facts- RFRA affects religious views on anything and everything.

As Sue Ellen Braunlin, co-president of Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice eloquently states ““[RFRA is] not just about wedding cakes – this very much has to do with access to non-judgmental reproductive healthcare, and that was a very big part of this case”.

Mainstream and local media miss that fact. The fact is that every argument for RFRA from Indiana Legislators and their minions included examples regarding reproduction- views on birth control. prochoice, fertility treatments, termination of pregnancy, and health insurance.

People of faith hold different views on what is “sin” or immoral. Our individual views and faith are already protected. But now on July 1st, one can choose to refuse to serve someone, or rent an apartment to someone, or hire someone simply because their belief or nonbelief in God isn’t the same as theirs.

That’s not religious freedom. That’s discrimination. Authentic religious freedom allows for individual conscience not coercion. One follows their faith path because they believe it is the right and just thing to do- not out of fear from fellow members. And one doesn’t force another to embrace their belief.

Religions have differing views on almost everything! Religions disagree on communion and baptism!

Just a few religious views, rather religious discrimination that will be protected by RFRA

  • Adoption – single parent? Biracial couple? Same sex couple?
  • Termination of pregnancy (for ANY reason- including ectopic pregnancies, rape, endangering the mother)
  • Medical procedures- fertility treatments, vasectomy, vaccinations, end of life decisions, morning after pills

So when you refuse to serve, or you are refused service due to religious views,  you could wind up in court. That’s another thing the Indiana Legislator agreed on – RFRA would result in court cases.

I doubt RFRA will make headlines though- the media and most of the big name companies /individuals that boycotted Indiana in April fell under the spell of Mike Pence and bought into the fix. After Indiana held the attention of mainstream media,  (and LBGT organizations) for almost a week when the General Assembly passed and Governor Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom RFRA. Mayhem ensued – boycotts, organizations threatening to pull their conventions, artists canceling performances, and companies talked of moving their headquarters. Even other states canceled trips to the Hoosier State.

But then Pence signed the RFRA “fix”. And they all disappeared. Except those of us long-suffering Hoosiers. We know there never was a “RFRA fix”. The protections for GLBT is only if you live in one of Indiana’s eleven municipalities with a Human Rights Ordinance regarding sexual orientation. And the majority of Hoosiers do not live with a HRO.

That and the HRO doesn’t touch all the other religious views.

The only way to end the discrimination that is now legal in Indiana is to repeal RFRA. Thankfully Democratic challengers to Governor Pence, most notably Senator Karen Tallian understands true religious freedom and it isn’t RFRA. As she posted:

     “As Governor, I would ask the same legislators who voted for             RFRA and the so-called “fix,” to once and for all repeal this                        harmful legislation. And even though our state’s defense of marriage act statute is no longer enforceable, as Governor I will also ask our legislature to remove this discriminatory language. These items should not be allowed to remain on the books as legacies to discrimination. Finally, it’s time our state adds civil rights protections for our LGBT community into state statute. I will author this bill in the 2016 Legislative Session and as Governor, issue an executive order protecting state employees against discrimination”

Yes, RFRA affects GLBT. It also affects more. It perpetuates hate. RFRA gives support for legislators to write and enact laws targeting women’s clinics and abortion providers- solely due to religious views. Physicians and those in the medical field testify to the safety of these procedures- but fear and religious fervor win out. It needs to stop.

RFRA is now law. Its time for those of us long suffering Hoosiers to change it.