Spencer Pride Board Expresses Thoughts on Legislation Impacting LGBTQ+ Hoosiers

The following statement was issued from the Spencer Pride Board of Directors regarding two pieces of legislation currently being considered by the Indiana General Assembly:

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors strongly supports the passage of a comprehensive hate crimes law in Indiana.  This bill would allow for imposing stronger penalties upon conviction of bias-related crimes against people on the basis of another individual’s actual or perceived age, ancestry, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender identity, military service, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.  Indiana is among only 5 states without such legislation.

 

The lack of a hate crimes law in Indiana has had a negative impact on economic development initiatives and has given Indiana the reputation of not being a welcoming state.  This contradicts Spencer Pride’s mission of making Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.

Support for hate crimes legislation is bipartisan.  Hate crimes legislation is supported by Governor Eric Holcomb.  We, as directors of Spencer Pride, encourage all state legislators to vote yes on House Bill 1203 (Bias Motivated Crimes).

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors does not support House Bill 1525 (Biological Sexual Identity), which further exacerbates bias and hate.  In addition to creating a poor environment for our youth, this bill would add burdens to our state schools, including new infrastructure requirements & difficult-to-enforce monitoring requirements.

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors urges legislators to vote NO on House Bill 1525.

Tell Your Elected Officials to Support LGBT Equality! (My Voice, by Kim Fidler)

During his State of the State address, Governor Mike Pence, stated that he would prioritize religious freedom over civil rights protections for LGBT citizens of Indiana. While he also stated that nobody should be mistreated because of “who they love or what they believe”, he made it very clear that he would not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of citizens.

One need only think about the terrible effects of the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to realize that a “fix” is definitely necessary. Last year, following the passage of RFRA, there was a $250 million loss of revenue for Indiana. It appears that we are doomed to a repeat performance. There will, undoubtedly, be more fallout, more boycotts, and more loss of revenue in Indiana due to discrimination against the gay, lesbian, & transgender community. Business owners are already expressing disappointment that Governor Pence is not taking the opportunity to correct the error that he made by signing RFRA into law.

There are several bills proposed that would prohibit LGBT discrimination. However, we know the stance of our Governor. We need to continue to ask legislators to push for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights law.

Please ask legislators to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 35, the Transgender Bathroom Access bill, sponsored by Jim Tomes. This bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000, for a transgender person to enter a public bathroom that does not conform to their gender at birth. How would this be monitored? Would citizens be responsible for filing a complaint? Would employees of businesses be responsible for filing a complaint? This bill would also prohibit schools from ever allowing transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender identity. Students would only be identified by the sex assigned to them at birth. That sex would determine which restroom they may use. This would force school corporations to violate Title IX and discriminate against transgender students on the basis of their gender identity. The Indiana Department of Education has repeatedly found that schools cannot refuse access to transgender students on the basis of their gender identity. This bill is totally ludicrous.

Some of the protections proposed for members of the LGBT community would be in the areas of employment, housing, services, and more. The bill most likely to provide civil rights protections for LGBT community members is Senate Bill 2. It is a bill from Senator Timothy Lanane. The bill amends civil rights enforcement statutes to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, veteran status, and ancestry.

I would like to mention that the likely gubernatorial challenger, John Gregg, stated that Governor Pence’s refusal to support extending state civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity is “unconscionable”.

RFRA continues to damage Indiana’s economy and reputation. Please be sure to contact your legislators to ask them to vote for Senate Bill 2, without exemptions. The bill is coming to be known as “Four Words and a Comma”. “Gender Identity, sexual orientation” would be the four words added to Indiana’s anti-discrimination law. This bill is preferred by LGBT rights supporters, including much of the business community, because it does not offer religious exemptions. Original civil rights acts do not contain exemptions. Other states do not have exemptions in their civil rights acts. Everyone is entitled to civil rights. This bill would be effective upon passage.

MY VOICE: Happy 4th of July! (by Kim Fidler)

4th-of-july-american-independence-day-flyer_GkgD2dwuJuly is a month of patriotism. It is ironic that on July 1st, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act took  effect in Indiana. While we have come so far with the SCOTUS decision to legalize gay marriage, it is definitely a step in the wrong direction to have RFRA in Indiana.  In July, we celebrate essential democratic anniversaries — the birth of the United States on July 4, 1776 and the birth of the Women’s Rights Movement on July 19-20, 1848.

On July 19-20, 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott spearheaded the first women’s rights convention in American History.  Over 300 women and men came to Seneca Falls, New York to protest the mistreatment of women in social, economic, political, and religious life.  This marked the first public meeting calling for women’s right to vote.

It is so difficult for me to believe that some people do not even exercise their right to vote these days.

I vote and ask others to do so. The damage to Indiana via this law will last for years. This law is a response to the failed attempt to place a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Nevermind that gay marriage challenges have cost Indiana $1.4 million in attorney fees or that nearly $2 million has been spent to “repair” the image of Indiana. All of this, of course, was at the expense of the tax-payers.

I personally do not favor boycotts of Indiana businesses, as I see the now famous round, blue stickers in many businesses that demonstrate that “we serve everyone”. I hope that tourists and businesses continue to visit Indiana and to do business with those businesses that do serve everyone proudly. We, as citizens, must take a positive and active role to ensure that Indiana does not suffer by continuing to emphasize the positive.

I am proud to actively and positively remain a volunteer for Spencer Pride and to serve on the Spencer Pride Board of Directors. I continue to try to politely address the remarks of people who do not know the law or the issues on social media. I fear that such comments will continue to make the citizens of Indiana look uneducated and just a bit “redneck”. It is not difficult to make a positive effect. This starts with talking to our children about this law. If you do not have the stomach to speak publicly or to visit legislators at the statehouse, it is fine. There are many other ways to demonstrate that Indiana is still a very welcoming state to everyone.

I try to respect the opinions of others. However, this was a Supreme Court ruling. How can people blame President Obama? It is my hope that the citizens of Indiana will rise above this terrible RFRA law in an active and positive manner. It is my hope that the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality will help us move forward in Indiana.

We must begin at the polls. When we fail to vote, we fail to make changes. The positive side to all of this is that RFRA has angered many. It has caused many to realize that we have a human rights issue with RFRA. It has caused awareness and conversation, that has resulted in approval, acceptance, or in the very least tolerance of those who are different from some of us. It takes all kinds of people to make the world an interesting place. Please vote. Please ask others to vote.

Please keep the aforementioned dates in mind and in your heart. Please do not allow the brave acts of others to have been done for nothing. Please also take the time to thank those who have and who currently serve in the military to ensure that we continue to have freedom in the United States of America!

Happy 4th of July!!

This post comes straight to you from Kim Fidler.  Kim has been a member of the Spencer Pride Inc. Board of Directors since 2013. This post is part of a series entitled “Voices of Spencer Pride” where we share perspectives from our volunteers about topics that they find important. We hope that you find this post meaningful to you and if you think someone else would also find value in it, we encourage you to share it with them as well. THANK YOU!

Governor Pence Issues Letter to Spencer Pride; Organization Responds

Governor Pence's Letter to 2015 Spencer Pride Festival AttendeesOn Thursday, amidst much social media buzz around Indiana Governor Pence’s letter to Indy Pride, Spencer Pride also received a similar letter from the Governor.

In the letter, the Governor began with “on behalf of the people of Indiana, it is a pleasure to welcome you to Owen County.” He went on to describe the beautiful features of our county, including McCormick’s Creek State Park, Cataract Falls, and the Tivoli Theatre.

Calling Spencer a ‘charming rural community,’ Governor Pence then summarized his letter by sharing his confidence that attendees “will come to know a vibrant town and our famous Hoosier Hospitality.”

“While we are honored and grateful that Governor Pence took time to issue a letter of welcome to Spencer Pride, we would have appreciated if the Governor had taken a few extra moments to mention LGBT people, equality, or the actual festival itself in the body of the letter,” said Spencer Pride Inc. president Jonathan Balash.

“It’s like welcoming people to a county fair without mentioning agriculture or the fair itself.”

“Given the passage of RFRA and the corresponding ‘fix’ that garnered tremendous national attention on Indiana this year, Hoosier are looking for better leadership when it comes to issues of equality for all people. It would have been nice for Governor Pence to acknowledge these important issues, even if he disagrees with how to approach them,” Balash concluded.

Governor Pence was invited to attend the 2015 Spencer Pride Festival but we received notice this week that the Governor is unable to do so. Perhaps for our 10th anniversary festival scheduled in June of 2016 we can work to secure his presence at our event.

The letter from Governor Pence follows other letters received by Spencer Pride Inc. from elected officials, including letters from United States Senator Joe Donnelly (Indiana) and the minority leaders of the Indiana General Assembly, Scott Pelath (House Democratic Leader) & Timothy Lanane (Senate Democratic Leader). Unlike the Governor’s letter, the other messages included strong words of support for the work of Spencer Pride Inc. and for the overall goals of equality for LGBT People.

The 2015 Spencer Pride Festival takes place on Saturday June 6 from 10 AM until 5 PM in downtown Spencer on the Owen County Courthouse square.  The festival is 100% family-friendly and admission-free.  Parking is also free.  The festival features a huge marketplace with more than 85 vendors, all-day live entertainment, a lot of activities for the whole family, and much more!

Minority Leaders from Indiana General Assembly Issue Statement of Support for Spencer Pride

IGAToday, we received a letter from the minority leaders of the Indiana General Assembly – Scott Pelath, House Democratic Leader & Timothy Lanane, Senate Democratic Leader – expressing support for Spencer Pride and welcoming attendees to our festival.

The letter unequivocally states support for the work of Spencer Pride and acknowledges our hard work for the past 9 years.

“We are unbelievably honored to have received this letter of support from the minority leaders of the Indiana state legislature,” said Spencer Pride Inc. Jonathan A. Balash.  “It means a lot to our volunteers and supports to get this time of recognition from some of the most important elected officials in the state.”

The letter will be read aloud by Jonathan to attendees at this year’s Spencer Pride Festival, which takes place on Saturday June 6 from 10 AM until 5 PM on the square in downtown Spencer.

MY VOICE: Engaging with our Elected Officials (by Jonathan Balash)

IMG_2313The breakfast was held on Saturday, April 18 at the Owen Valley Christian Fellowship on Highway 43 in Spencer.   Almost 40 people were in attendance, which was the largest turnout for one of the breakfasts this legislative session.   In attendance was Indiana State Representative Jim Baird (district 44), Representative Bob Heaton (district 46), and Senatory Eric Bassler (district 39).

I attended the breakfast (and the ones before it) because I care about our state and I firmly believe that it’s important to engage with our elected officials.  Part of that engagement is holding them accountable at the ballot box and in person for their actions.  Attending the breakfast is an opportunity to ask them face-to-face about what they’ve done and to expect them to explain or justify their behaviors.  I had asked questions about the so called Religion Freedom Restoration Act in the prior two breakfasts this year which had been held in January and February.  At the time I was told by the legislators that the RFRA would make a positive impact on Indiana.  They justified their supportive positions using out-of-state examples that couldn’t be related to solving Indiana’s problems or addressing Hoosier issues.

Given that the passage of RFRA caused national outrage and resulted in a tremendous amount of negative press about the Hoosier state, I wanted to ask the officials if they still felt that their votes for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act were still the right ones.

In addition to the impact on our state’s reputation (and therefore our economy), this bill created a climate among Hoosiers that felt repressive and backward-leaning.  Fixing the bill was important to help restore our reputation and to show Hoosiers that Indiana is not a place where discrimination is enshrined in our law.

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Jonathan currently serves as the President of Spencer Pride, Inc. and was a founding member of the organization.

Typically the breakfasts begin with quick introductions and then lead into questions.  Normally the breakfasts last 90 minutes.  For this breakfast, however, we were informed at the beginning that they’d like to cut the breakfast to only 60 minutes since the legislators had other public events to attend later in the morning.  Then they began with introductions and talked about things they’d been working on.  After consuming 35 of the 60 minutes, they finally asked for the first question from the audience.

I was really happy that my question about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was the first question of the session.  I was hoping it would help set the tone for questions to come and I think that it did that.

I asked why, if they thought that the original legislation was going to help Indiana, why each of them also voted for the ‘fix’ legislation that amended the law to show protection for LGBT Hoosiers.  The legislators all re-affirmed that their original support for the RFRA was based not in ill-intent but with the intent to further defend religious freedoms guaranteed by the Indiana State Consitution.

Senator Bassler was the first to respond.  After apologizing that Senator Bray couldn’t attend, he said that he voted to fix the bill for a couple of reasons.  First “it was giving a black eye to Hoosiers.”  Second, the Senator wanted to make it clear that his support of the original bill wasn’t about an intent to discriminate against one person or another.  His vote of the fix was intended to show that and to make sure that the bill wouldn’t be used to discriminate in this way.

Representative Heaton agreed that the bill wasn’t intended to discriminate, but he spent some time quoting from the Wall Street Journal editorial page where someone had written in and voiced their support of the original RFRA.

Here are just a few of the Spencer Pride Inc. volunteers who attended the April Legislative Breakfast.
Here are just a few of the Spencer Pride Inc. volunteers who attended the April Legislative Breakfast.

He had obviously been prepared for questions about the RFRA because he had several items available to refer to.  In past breakfasts, he had not been so prepared.  The presence of those documents further led me to believe that his lengthy introduction earlier had been a stalling tactic.  He underestimated by determination.

Representative Baird said that he had nothing to add, other than to say that the original bill “was perceived to be a problem that needed to be fixed,” so “we fixed it.”  Not exactly supportive of the LGBT community in his defensive response, but at least he had to sit in front of his constituents and defend his actions.

My husband Jacob, who was also in attendance, later followed up by asking them if they still would have voted for the original bill without the fix.  Essentially, he wanted to know, did they have any regrets?

Representative Baird had nothing to say.

Representative Heaton said “I would have voted for it again.”  At least he was consistent with his lackluster support for pro-equality measures.  He also mentioned that he wouldn’t support the addition of sexual orientation as a protective class in Indiana.  “Where do we stop?” he asked, “There are a lot of groups out there.”

Senator Bassler was very frank: “I would do things differently if I had to do it over again, if I’m being honest.”  He then made some specific recommendations for how it could have been done differently.  He is very open-minded to hearing from pro-equality consistuents.  I continued the conversation with Senator Bassler after the breakfast was over.

When I think about how others can best be involved in important poltiical issues, a few things come to mind.  First and foremost, VOTE.  Regardless of how you make your decision about who to vote for, voting is the single-most influential way that we have to make change among our elected officials.  Second, it’s essential that we engage with our elected officials to tell them what’s important to us.  Third, we must hold them accountable through our interactions with them.  It’s a lot easier to make bad decisions when no one will ask you about those decisions; it’s an altogether more difficult situation when people force their elected officials to answer for those decisions.

Spencer Pride Inc. aims to keep people informed about LGBTQI topics of significant importance to our community, so please ‘like’ the Spencer Pride Inc. Facebook page and visit our website frequently for more information on how you can be involved.

This post comes straight to you from Jonathan Balash.  Jonathan, his husband Jacob, & his son Truman live in Owen County with their three basset hounds. This post is part of a new series entitled “Voices of Spencer Pride” where we share perspectives from our volunteers about topics that they find important. We hope that you find this post meaningful to you and if you think someone else would also find value in it, we encourage you to share it with them as well. THANK YOU!

Legislative Breakfast on Saturday, April 18

FOAF

On Saturday, April 18, Owen County will have its last legislative breakfast of the 2015 legislative session.  Although it was originally believed that the final breakfast would be in March, the Owen County Chamber of Commerce added an additional event in April due to the cancelation of the February date caused by winter weather.  This addition was much needed given the activities of the Indiana Legislature this year.

The breakfast will be held from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. at the Owen Valley Christian Fellowship – 338 State Highway 43 in Spencer.

These breakfasts are an important opportunity to speak to and hear from our local legislators.

We encourage you to attend the breakfast, especially in light of the discriminatory law entitled “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that was passed a few weeks back and then slightly modified in order to quell the tremendously negative response that it received from the public & from national business leaders.  The Spencer Pride Inc. board of directors released a statement about the law expressing our own disagreement and outrage over its passage.

It is anticipated that several volunteers will be attending the breakfast this week.  We know that at least some will be asking about the RFRA, especially given that when we asked last month we were told by the elected officials present how beneficial the law would be for Indiana.  That is in stark contrast to the estimated tens of millions of dollars the bill will have cost the state’s tourism industry and overall economy. Attempting to quantify the impact to Indiana’s reputation would be futile at this point, although most believe it will take many, many years to un-do the damage.
We hope that you will be able to attend to interact with your elected officials and to show support for Spencer Pride, Inc.
Donuts and drinks will be provided by this month’s sponsor.

To read the full statement released from Spencer Pride, Inc. regarding the RFRA, visit our prior web post.

Kim’s Corner: April Fools

It is more than just a small coincidence that April 1st is April Fool’s Day and that have chosen to cover the topic of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This act was signed by current Governor, Mike Pence, on Thursday, March 26, 2015, in spite of intense pressure from opponents who fear discrimination against gays and lesbians will result.

Governor Pence and leaders of the republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly say that the bill is not about discrimination. It takes effect on July 1st, 2015. The signing of the law was closed to the public and the press.

Indiana is the 20th state to adopt such legislation. This bill follows the legalization of same-sex marriages in Indiana and other states. The act is the result of Senate Bill 101. The signing by Pence was attended by 70-80 special guests by invitation only. So many calls came into the governor’s office that the phone system was temporarily down.

I was able to attend a legislative event in Vincennes, Indiana. Legislators who were present were asked to comment on the economic effects that this bill could have in Indiana. It was interesting that those legislators answered that there would be absolutely NO financial impact on Indiana due to the passage of the bill.

Companies are already announcing that they will no longer send employees or customers to Indiana to face possible discrimination. The NCAA has expressed concern over the upcoming men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis. In addition, Gen Con threatened to take its convention to another state when its contract with Indiana ends in 2020. That would be a loss of revenue from approximately 56,000 attendees. Governor Pence continues to assert that the bill is not about legalizing discrimination.

Democrats in the General Assembly attempted to make amendments to the bill to protect people from discrimination for sexual orientation. Republican legislators refused to do so.

I wish to thank Senate Minority Leader, Tim Lanane, for speaking out against the governor and republicans for supporting the bill without amendments.  Lanane stated that the bill portrays Indiana as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards.

A number of companies, organizations, athletes, and famous individuals have expressed opposition to Pence’s signing of the RFRA. Some of them include Charles Barkley, Pacer Reggie Miller, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Talk-show host Larry King, Hillary Clinton, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, Scotty’s Brewhouse, George Takei, and more. “No hate in our state” and “Fix the bill” were chants heard from thousands in the statehouse in protest of the law. Many local small businesses are posting photos of “We serve everyone” stickers.

19 states have “religious freedom” laws similar to Indiana’s as does the federal government, but there are distincitions that set Indiana’s apart.  For example, Indiana’s bill does apply to conflicts between private citizens.  Also, Indiana does not have sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class at the state level.  Both of these differences make the big much more dangerous in Indiana.

Senator Scott Schneider and State Representative Jud McMillin co-authored the terrible bill in Indiana. The house passed the bill on Monday, March 23, 2015, with a vote of 63-31 and the Senate on Tuesday, March 24, with a vote of 40-10.

San Francisco Mayor, Ed Lee, banned public-funded travel to Indiana after the bill was signed, stating that San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people by the state of Indiana.

It is my hope that opponents from Indiana and other states will not stop fighting this discriminatory bill. Remember in November. As my dad always said, “Vote the bums out!” Our actions at the ballot box will accomplish more than our words or our rallies. These methods are useful and effective. However, we must vote for new people to represent our best interests.

Happy April. We are officially being led by fools in Indiana.

Update: The City County Council of Indianapolis-Marion County, has issued Proposal No. 120, 2015. This proposal is in opposition to the Indiana General Assembly’s passage of SEA 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and encourages State Legislators to amend the Civil Rights section of the Indiana Code and to uphold and protect local anti-discrimination ordinances by exempting them from SEA 101. This amendment would include sexual orientation and gender identity, and to specifically exempt all civil rights laws, including but not limited to locally enacted Human Rights Ordinances, from SEA 101. SEA 101 will make protecting victims of domestic violence, as well as defending the rights of gay and transgender community members more difficult.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of Kim Fidler and do not necessarily represent those of all Spencer Pride Inc. volunteers.  Kim is a member of the Spencer Pride Inc. Board of Directors and we are proud to have her express her views on this important topic.  Check out Kim’s Corner every month for more from her.  

Spencer Pride Inc. Statement on the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”

The Spencer Pride, Inc. Board of Directors is firmly opposed to the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that was signed into law this week by Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

We believe that this law provides a license to businesses throughout the state to discriminate against many groups, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, & intersex communities.  We believe that this law is not right for Indiana, does not accurately represent true Hoosier Hospitality, & simply exists as a response to recent momentum in marriage equality.

We applaud the many for-profit and not-for-profit companies & organizations, as well as the countless citizens and elected officials who have come forth to share similar perspectives and beliefs.

We are rooted in Spencer, Indiana and most of our volunteers are native or life-long Hoosiers.  Indiana is home for us and we hope that this new law (scheduled to take effect in July of this year) will not negatively impact the state due to the potential pull-out of various businesses, conferences, and other elements which impact our economy.

We encourage the Indiana State Legislature to repeal this law.

Last Legislative Breakfast on Saturday, March 21

This Saturday, March 21 is the last Legislative Breakfast in Owen County. The breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. at Owen Valley Christian Fellowship – 338 State Highway 43 in Spencer.

These breakfasts are an important opportunity to speak to and hear from our local legislators. We encourage you to attend the breakfast, especially in light of the discriminatory legislation that was just passed out of committee on Monday.

The Owen County Chamber of Commerce coordinates 2-3 legislative breakfasts per year. The first breakfast, held in January, was sponsored by Spencer Pride, Inc.   Many Pride volunteers were present at the January breakfast, including half of the board of directors.
The second breakfast, planned for February, was cancelled due to winter weather.
It is anticipated that several volunteers will be attending the final breakfast this week. Having public support for Spencer Pride Inc., and in opposition to the religious-based discrimination legislation, is very important to us. We hope that you will be able to attend.
Donuts and drinks will be provided by this month’s sponsor.

 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Kim’s Corner: Springing into Action

Kim Fidler, Spencer Pride Inc. Director
Kim Fidler, Spencer Pride Inc. Director

March marks the beginning of spring. I love the spring. It is a time of renewal and hope. It means the end of an often harsh winter and an even more harsh legislative session. Spring is legislative season. This year we have a long legislative session. I cannot help but think that means that legislators have more time to pass damaging bills. When I think of March and spring, I take comfort in my memories of when I was a child and my grandpa raised cows in the pasture across from the house where I was raised. It was wonderful to see him every day when he would come to feed the cows. The other wonderful thing about the pasture across the road is that behind it was a creek and a watering hole where my siblings and I could go to swim. I often dream of that creek and watering hole. I dream that I am floating along the stream on a leaf. It is both exciting and terrifying. I have no control over where the leaf takes me. At times, it travels over calm waters. Other times, it carries me over rocks and strong currents.

In my dreams, along the way, I see many people. Some are friendly and those I love, while others are not. Sometimes, I am safely riding on the leaf down the creek and suddenly hit rough waters where I can barely hold on to the leaf. This is life!

In my dream, I never reach my final destination, which is fine. I really do not want to know my final destination at this point. I have visited several psychics in my life. They have all been frighteningly accurate in their predictions, both good and bad. However, I have never wanted to know how or when my life will end. We will just wait for that information!

As I have said, spring is a time of renewal and hope. The winter has been more mild than expected. However, I am always happy to see the spring arrive. I have been asked to register as a lobbyist to try to combat a number of negative bills against public education. I also continue to speak to legislators to support the goals of my friends in Spencer Pride and those of the LGBTQ community. Nothing worthwhile is easy. We must be prepared to fight for what is right. For example, there is a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act that has been proposed in Indiana as Senate Bill 568 and House Bill 1632. What is this you ask? Well, for those who support the bills, they say their strong religious beliefs will be protected. For those who oppose the bill, they say it will legalize discrimination. The legislation is the result of a federal judge ending the ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana last June. The author of the bill is Senator Scott Schneider, a Republican from Indianapolis. The focus is on same-sex marriage.

The bill would allow small businesses — such as bakeries, caterers, florists, and wedding chapels (wedding planning businesses) — to refuse services to gay couples based on the owner’s religious beliefs. It would also allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples. Senator Schneider says that nobody will be discriminated against due to this bill. He claims that the bill is to protect freedom and religious liberty. The bill would allow a person exercising his or her religion to use the law in court as a defense.

The bill is modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, which was passed under President Bill Clinton to protect religious minorities. It greatly affected the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case in June. Supreme Court Justices ruled that Hobby Lobby and other corporations can hold religious objections that allowed them to opt out of an Affordable Care Act requirement that they cover contraceptives for women. At least 19 states have passed some form of the law, and proposals have recently been introduced in several additional states, including Michigan and Georgia.

State Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said the Indiana bill will create a problem where there isn’t one and will just distract legislators from focusing on important topics, such as schools and wages. “We are not being prevented from exercising our faith, nor are we being forced to do something we don’t want to do,” he said. “It’s kind of sad, really.”

Schneider’s bill is likely to get serious consideration in the new General Assembly, which is now more conservative than ever before. Republicans increased the size of their super-majorities in the House and the Senate in Indiana during the November general election. Please do not hesitate to contact legislators to oppose this discriminating bill!

Currently, I am sure that many of us feel as though we are traveling down a wild and winding creek on a leaf, hanging on for dear life without brakes or a steering wheel. When things get crazy, we have to hold on to and rely upon those we love and trust. That is the only thing that will see us through the wild times. Most important is to remember that eventually, we will make it back to calm waters.

HAPPY SPRING!!

Second Legislative Breakfast on Saturday, February 21

Spencer Pride Inc. Director Kim Fidler asks a question of Senator Bassler.
Spencer Pride Inc. Director Kim Fidler asks a question of Senator Bassler.

UPDATE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO WINTER WEATHER.  THE NEXT LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST WILL TAKE PLACE ON SATURDAY, MARCH 21st AT 7:30 AM.  

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This Saturday, February, the 21st, the second legislative breakfast of this year will be held in Owen County.  This event begins at 7:30 a.m. and is held at Owen Valley Christian Fellowship – 338 State Highway 43 in Spencer.

The legislative breakfast is a great opportunity to hear from your elected state legislators and to ask them questions about issues that are important to you.  The Owen County Chamber of Commerce coordinates 2-3 legislative breakfasts per year.  The first breakfast, held last month, was sponsored by Spencer Pride, Inc.
We encourage you to attend the breakfast, especially in light of the religious discrimination bill being introduced (SB 101).   Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash asked Senator Bassler about the bill during the January breakfast, but the new senator was not yet familiar with the language and committed to following up with Jonathan.  Jonathan sent an e-mail to the Senator this week to reiterate his opposition to the bill and received a cordial “I’ll consider your feedback when reviewing the legislation” response.
Jonathan was not alone in representing Spencer Pride Inc. at the January breakfast.  Several other Pride volunteers were present, including half of the board of directors.   It is anticipated that several volunteers will be attending the second breakfast tomorrow.  Having public support for Spencer Pride Inc., and in opposition to the religious-based discrimination legislation, is very important to us.  We hope that you will be able to attend.
Donuts and drinks will be provided by this month’s sponsor.
See you in the morning!
Eric Jones (a member of our Board of Directors) attended the breakfast with his family (wife Larissa & son Levi)
Eric Jones (a member of our Board of Directors) attended the breakfast with his family (wife Larissa & son Levi)

Kim’s Corner: Ramifications of Same-Sex Marriage

“All Kinds of Kinds” – Miranda Lambert

Thomas was a congressman with closets full of skeletons
And dresses that he wore on Friday nights…

Now some point a finger and let ignorance linger
If they’d look in the mirror they’d find.
That ever since the beginning to keep the world spinning
It takes all kinds of kinds.
All kinds of kinds.
All kinds of kinds.

Happy November! November is a month to give thanks for the things that we have and the blessings in our lives. As we enter the holiday season, I always hope that people are thinking of others. The words from the song above make me very happy. This song is one of more than just tolerance. It is one of acceptance. In spite of differences, we are all important and keep the world spinning. I am proud to have been named the volunteer of the year for Spencer Pride, Inc. I continue to meet people who desire acceptance of others.

Due to the fact that I am divorced, and volunteer for Spencer Pride events, I have had people question my sexuality. I am 100% straight. I smile when people ask. I say that volunteering for homeless people does not make me homeless. Volunteering my time for public education friendly political candidates does not make me a politician. These are things that I like doing to help others. We do not always to these things due to our own personal needs. Selfishly, I continue to work with Spencer Pride because I have made such wonderful friends and would miss them terribly if I were to stop.

I have taken my involvement in Spencer Pride to a new level. I have been invited to participate in a conference in California this December to do a presentation on the effects of the legalization of gay marriage on domestic partner benefits. As everyone knows, gay marriage is now legal. The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor overturned a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This has changed employee benefits for same-sex couples.

U.S. v. Windsor is a landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that restricting the U.S. federal interpretation of marriage and spouse. To apply only to opposite-sex unions is unconstitutional. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer lived in New York, but were married in Canada in 2007. Thea died in 2009. She left her entire estate to Edith. Edith tried to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. She was not allowed to do so, due to Section 3 of DOMA, as the term spouse only applied to marriages between a man and a woman. The IRS made the decision that the exemption did not apply to same-sex marriages and denied Edith’s claim. She would have to pay $363,053 in estate taxes.

On November 9, 2010, Edith filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking a refund because DOMA singled out legally married same-sex couples for differential treatment. On February 3, 2011, U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced that the Department of Justice would not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. On June 6, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional under the due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and ordered the federal government to issue the tax refund, plus interest. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision that declared Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional.

Section 3 of DOMA had limited the definition of marriage and spouse to opposite sex unions. It also made same-sex spouses eligible for the same employee benefits and privileges regarding federal laws and taxes as opposite-sex spouses. Many employers began offering domestic partner benefits because same-sex couples had no option to marry. Eventually, domestic partner benefits were also provided for many opposite-sex couples as well.

With the Windsor decision, many U.S. employers will be making changes to same-sex domestic partner benefits and are also altering benefits now provided to opposite-sex couples. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31% of workers in private industry had access to health care benefits for same-sex partners and 26% had access to plans that provide health care benefits to opposite-sex partners. While some companies are changing their domestic partner benefits following the Windsor ruling, Wal-Mart will provide benefits to same-sex or opposite-sex partners with whom the employee has been in an exclusive and on-going relationship for at least a year.

In August, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS ruled that same-sex couples who were legally married will be treated as married for federal tax purposes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In September, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a release stating that it will interpret the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA), which governs most employer-provided retirement and health plans, to include same-sex and opposite-sex spouses regardless of the state in which they live. Marriage is now required. ERISA covers only spouses and will not be extended to domestic partners. Many companies across the United States will likely end their domestic partner benefits. When domestic partner programs are eliminated, the employer may provide a grace period of several months for the couple to marry.

There are still many questions about what benefits will be for same-sex couples. Until additional guidance and regulations are issued by the IRS and the DOL, employers may not make changes to domestic partner benefits. In summary, federal or state law is not concerned with holy matrimony. Government deal with marriage as a civil status. Edith Windsor state that when she and her partner met nearly 50 years earlier that they never dreamed that their marriage would be viewed by the Supreme Court as “an example of why gay married couples should be treated equally, and not like second-class citizens.”

The differentiation of same-sex and opposite-sex couples insults the same-sex couple AND humiliates tens of thousands of children being raised by those couples. Section 3 of DOMA makes it difficult for those children to understand the closeness of their own family in comparison to that of other families in their community.

All families matter…Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Hoosier Marriage Equality

SPI%20Marriage%20Thank-You

Today the United States Supreme Court decided not to consider the marriage equality cases that had petitioned it.  As a result, their previous stays of the decisions affirming equality will be lifted, and same-sex marriage will be a reality in Indiana!  This includes recognition of marriages legally performed in other states.

 
Today’s marriage victory happened because of the amazing plaintiffs in the cases, plus the organizations who dedicated their time and resources into helping bring marriage equality a reality. This includes Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and more. THANK YOU. The quest for full marriage equality in the United States isn’t over, but today 10 states were added to the list thanks to this Supreme Court Decision.