Indiana Marriage Battle
A city council bill that would have required more tolerance for homosexuality was narrowly defeated in the heavily Mennonite town of Goshen, Ind. And the vote had implications for the rest of the state.
GOSHEN, Ind. — When Union and Confederate armies clashed at Gettysburg, they were not fighting over possession of the small Pennsylvania town. There were much bigger objectives and stakes involved.
The town of Goshen, Ind., with a population of around 32,000, recently became the intense focus of struggle between homosexual rights and family activists. The homosexual rights activists “wanted Goshen in their trophy case,” explained Patrick Mangan, executive director of Citizens for Community Values of Indiana and its NoSpecialRights.net Task Force.
What made both sides dearly want to prevail in a contest over amending the city’s nondiscrimination code to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”?
“This is a battle for the Heartland,” Mangan said. “If the homosexual activists can win in conservative Goshen, they can win anywhere.”
The bill’s proponents listed 43 local companies, including major home centers, department stores and grocery stores that already had in place sexual orientation nondiscrimination policies. Why, then, the need for government regulation of the issue in Goshen?
On one side was GoshenCivilRights.com, led by Michelle Marquis and Eric Kanagy, and with “support and counsel” from Indiana Equality, a homosexual-advocacy organization based in Indianapolis. They garnered support from the local homosexual community and other sympathetic individuals.
Among their supporters were 18 pastors from the Mennonite, Brethren, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ traditions who signed a letter in favor of the bill.
On the other side, arriving into the fray with just 24 hours’ notice of the first vote, were the American Family Association of Indiana, the Indiana Family Institute, the Indiana Voice for the Family, Advance Indiana, and Citizens for Community Values of Indiana.
Indiana Equality’s Human Rights Ordinance Project receives funding from the Tides Foundation’s State Equality Fund, a philanthropic partnership that includes the Tim Gill Foundation. The Tides Center is listed as a non-governmental organization beneficiary of George Soros’ philanthropic fund along with Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Opponents point to the Gill Foundation as the financial link to the shift of power in the Iowa Legislature, which prevented passage of the state’s marriage amendment. This kept open the door for the state’s Supreme Court to legalize homosexual “marriage,” which they did.
The Gill Foundation also reportedly funded the Democrat takeover of the Colorado Legislature, which passed a radical gender-identity bill.
The lead-up to an Aug. 18 hearing and vote flew “under the radar” of pro-family groups. A few days prior, a flurry of e-mails initiated by state Assemblyman Wes Culver, a Goshen businessman, drew a quick response from pro-family leaders.
The closest organization with “boots on the ground” was Citizens for Community Values, which expressed its opposition to the homosexual agenda, and stated that homosexual rights are special rights that undermine constitutional freedom of speech, assembly and religion.
An overflow crowd packed the city hall that night with more than 200 citizens in attendance.
Some of the 29 people arguing in favor of the bill framed the issue as discrimination. Some of the 16 speaking against cited the moral and religious dimensions, enforceability issues and employers’ rights.
They also questioned whether there was any actual discrimination going on. Supporters of the measure said Aug. 18 that they did not give any hard evidence of discrimination with names, dates and facts because of fear of retaliation.
Kanagy, of GoshenCivilRights.com, said 43 Goshen employers and six municipalities already ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The council voted 4-3 in favor. According to council rules, this margin was not sufficient for immediate passage. A final hearing and vote was scheduled for Sept. 1.
This reprieve gave pro-family forces time to build local community opposition to the ordinance.
On Sept. 1, 82 persons spoke against the amendment and 60 in favor. The meeting started at 7 p.m. before an overflow crowd of 500 plus at Goshen High School auditorium and ended at 1:30 a.m.
The Catholic Church offered no formal diocesan or parochial opposition, but individual Catholics did. Robert Roeder, a local member of the Knights of Columbus, as well as six Catholics speaking at the behest of Citizens for Community Values spoke against the bill.
An Antiochian Orthodox priest attended both hearings but chose not to address the council with his pro-family views for pastoral concerns they might be misconstrued. Several Protestant pastors spoke both for and against.
Changed His Mind
Citizens for Community Values presented each council member with two three-ring notebooks, one detailing the legal, moral, medical and economic harms caused by special-rights legislation and the homosexual lifestyle, and the other documenting from news sources how special rights undermine the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion.
The city has a Democratic mayor and a council of four Republican representatives and three Democrats. The bill had the bipartisan sponsorship of Republican Chic Lantz and Democrat Jeremy Stutsman. Lantz explained that after the Aug. 18 meeting he did his own research; when he discovered all the litigation, especially in Colorado, that such laws have engendered, he changed his mind.
“Pure and simple, when I signed on strictly as an antidiscrimination point,” Lantz said, “I didn’t know what was going on around the country until I did the research in the last two weeks. I thought, ‘Do I want this in Goshen?’” Lantz changed his vote, and the measure failed 4-3.
Added Lantz, “It’s for the children.”
Thomas Uebbing writes
from South Bend, Indiana.
- October 11-17, 2009