Tuesday, September 27, 2011

At-Large GOP Council Candidate Wants To Repeal HRO, Domestic Partnerships Benefits

Christopher Douglas, a longtime Republican and LGBT equality advocate, posted about a conversation he had with Michael Kalscheur. Kalscheur is running for one of the four At-Large slots on the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council. Douglas questioned Kalscheur on his views of the Human Rights Ordinance, which was passed in 2005 with bi-partisan support and adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to protected classes in the cases of housing and employment, and prohibits the city from doing business with contractors who discriminate on those grounds. Kalscheur said that not only is he against the HRO, but if given the opportunity to vote for a repeal, he would.

Kalscheur also expressed opposition for domestic partnership benefits for city employees. Domestic partnership benefits allow unmarried couples in long-term relationship access to employee benefits such as health care. While this is generally seen as an LGBT-specific issue since they don't have the option of marrying their partner, an increasing number of straight couples are choosing cohabitation for extended periods before or in lieu of marriage.

While this might come as no surprise to those familiar with anti-gay ideologies coming from the GOP at the national and state stage, LGBT equality issues make for strange bedfellows in Indianapolis. The opposition and support for the HRO in the December 2005 vote was bi-partisan. Eric Miller and his organization Advance America (which generally supports Republicans), as well as several preachers from black churches in Marion County (which typically support Democrats) came out in loud opposition to the HRO. LGBT equality groups from both political parties, as well as non-partisan LGBT equality groups, advocated for the HROs passage in 2005.

But in the six years since the HRO passed, things seem to have changed. No attempts from any councilors have been introduced to repeal the HRO, Mayor Greg Ballard (R) enforced the HRO in the "Just Cookies" controversy, and it's generally seen as a non-issue even among candidates who are themselves gay and lesbian, likely because it's perceived as a settled issue. And throughout the nation, attitudes are quickly changing among the populous on issues such as same-sex marriage, with the majority of Americans supporting it.

While anti-gay views might be able to be expressed in "safe" Republican districts such as Ginny Cain has in district 5, Republicans who want to succeed in Marion County (either at-large or in most of the districts) have to recognize that holding and promoting anti-gay views will only hurt their chances in most of the county, which has been trending Democrat for the past several years. Alienating those who believe in LGBT equality shuts off a sizable chunk of citizens who would otherwise be open to hearing your views on municipal governance.

UPDATE: Indianapolis Star reporter Jon Murray writes that if the Democrats regain control of the council, one of the priorities will be to introduce legislation that will allow domestic partnership benefits. Beth Murphy, the editorial editor for the Star, said that these priorities were drawn from the various endorsement interviews the editorial board has held with Democratic candidates.


  1. Even the author of the HRO, Jackie Nytes, said it was not triggered by the "Just Cookies" controversy and the refusal of a City Market vendor to sell cupcakes for a pro-gay rights event. Gary Welsh disagrees with that. We're on opposite sides on that issue.

    I would point out that even if the HRO applies, the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause prohibits government from interferring with religious beliefs. The owner said making cupcakes for the event was against his religous beliefs. Government cannot prohibit him from exercising those beliefs or punishing him for those beliefs by revoking the lease.

  2. since when is a commercial bakery in a city market a church ?

  3. Zach Adamson, one of the At-Large candidates on the Democrat ticket, asked me to post this on his behalf.

    It's important to note that Kalscheur is pretty alone in his position but he is none the less entitled to it.
    The very sad part of this whole story is the hypocrisy of it all.
    Just last night, at the Franklin Township Civic League candidates forum, Kalscheur, in his final remarks wrote the names of all his kids (8 of them) down on his name card. He said, full of emotion as he read the names off, that he wants for his family, the same thing that every family wants. They want the same thing as the family down the street and the same thing as the family up in Pike township and families all over Marion County.
    The irony of his opposition to the HRO and DP benefits is that this is exactly what LGBT families are saying. They want the same protections that Kalscheur and his family enjoy. They want to be able to go to work and do their jobs without fear they'll be fired for a non work issue simply because of who they are. They want to know they wont be denied housing or an education because of the make up of their families. Kalscheur, as a staunch Roman Catholic, should remember not so long ago the rabid anti-Catholic sentiments that permeated society in both the public and political arenas. In many New England parts, laws were established to keep Catholics from running for public office. They did this by creating loyalty oaths designed to keep Catholics out of office. I know this because I too am Roman Catholic and from a very early age I remember my family talking about the religious persecution Catholics had dealt within American culture over the years.
    It makes no sense that he would be opposed to extending to all families, the same protections his family takes for granted, but as I said before, he's entitled to his opinion.
    We'll all have to take solace in knowing it's an opinion that is on its way out.

  4. Wilson, the Free Exercise Clause doesn't just apply to Churches, it applies to protect the free expression of a person's religious beliefs, regardless of where those beliefs are expressed.

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  7. While I support same sex marriage, I have issues with the idea of handing out benefits to "domestic partners."

    Marriage is a public and legal committment to a partner for life. It plays an important role in our society. To extend benefits to domestic partners is to extend benefits to people who are a couple but who haven't made that public and legal committment. That opens up a can of worms. What about boyfriends and girlfriends living together. Are they domestic partners? You'd have trouble legally denying "domestic partner" benefits to heterosexual couples while providing them to homosexual couples. And how do you go about judging who is a "domestic partner?" What about platonic couples?

    Of course, this "domestic partner" issue arises because we haven't allowed same sex couples to marry. It's not fair to deny same sex couples the same benefits of those who get married. But we're treating the symptom instead of the disease. We should allow same sex marriage and let the married same sex partner get the benefits.

  8. While I see your point, Paul, local municipalities need to work with what they currently can do since they can't grant same-sex marriage licenses. It's these types of baby steps that will show that the world won't end if same-sex marriage is legalized.

    As for how domestic partnerships are determined, many state and local governments have answered that question as well as businesses. It varies, but they do have rigid rules just to make sure it's not some people who are essentially scamming them. That'll be one of the issues, if DP benefits are ever granted, that will need to be discussed if legislation is put forth.


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