On Monday, August 17th, I joined with over 120 people who gathered at the Carmel (Indiana) City Hall to hear testimony relating to a proposed Human Rights Ordinance in that city. Carmel is a fast-growing, economically-thriving suburban edge city on the North Side of Indianapolis. Carmel is also part of predominantly Republican Hamilton County. It has a Republican Mayor (Jim Brainard) and an all-Republican city council. Mayor Brainard supports equality and diversity in his city, and is quite eager to get this ordinance passed.
Even though this bill would protect citizens based on a person's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family or marital status, ancestry, age and/or veteran status, all of the opposition was clearly directed at LGBT people.
Four Carmel residents testified in support of the bill, and 29 people testified against it. The hearing lasted three hours and left some of us quite traumatized after what we witnessed by right-wing Christian zealots. I have a pretty thick skin after attending hearings such as this for the past ten years, but this one was a doozy! I am still mortified by what I heard.
I have always hated that decent Christians, and even those Christians who are vocally our allies, are being lumped in with the haters. But as you can see, the haters ARE becoming very vocal, and as we have seen, even nationally, as evidenced by Donald Trump, there is no longer any civil discourse.
I have been attending hearings such as this for the past ten years, and this had to be the worst. People had no shame in saying what they wanted -- I wouldn't have had the chutzpah to say half of what I heard during that hearing! This was the first hearing such as this that my (gay) son had ever attended, and he was so mortified that he had to leave early.
One of the Carmel residents who spoke against the bill was one Barbara Williams. After "preaching" for about 15 minutes, she told the council that they would have "blood on their hands" if the bill passed. Then she turned around, pointed her finger at the audience, and said "THOSE PEOPLE!" Well, my eyes bugged out! I could not believe what I was hearing! This woman had left the arena of being civil and was downright vicious!
Believe me, this is not about baking a simple wedding cake. This is about people like Curt Smith, from the right-wing Indiana Family Institute, (learn more here) who sent each person testifying against the bill a half-baked legal document (here), which councilor Ron Carter stated wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Lori Hepler, an Indianapolis attorney, also attended the hearing. She said that "This 'document' was a total misrepresentation of the ordinance's scope and impact. It does not generate any legal suit against businesses in Carmel at all. It was a scare tactic. It was a waste of time and an effort by unethical attorneys on a mission to hate." It seemed to me that the people testifying in opposition that evening were coached. They were angry and scared, but that was not an excuse for their behavior and their words that night.
I wish more people on our side had been there to witness this shameful display of hate. Because that's what it was. I am not an attorney. I am not a politician. But I am a mother and I am a friend to the LGBT community -- so I react emotionally. I will never forget that night. Yes, there are wonderful Christians out there -- but they are being overshadowed by these religious zealots who are stealing their religion from them. THEY are the ones who need to speak out and reclaim their religion and their goodness from these wackos.
I'm Jewish and I'M trying to defend them. They need to step up more and more. This is a well-planned, well-thought-out campaign to push back LGBT rights and put people back in the closet. Already there are local and state governments that are trying to run as theocracies. If we're not careful we'll see it spread to state government as well. There is no place for separation of church and state for this group. They have dug in their heels. After what I witnessed Monday night I am sure of it. If Carmel wants to attract businesses, I hope they step into the 21st century and not pander to the fears and threats of those who have been trying for years to deny LGBT Hoosiers their full civil rights.