Tag Archives: Mike Pence

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.

 

 

 

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.