Friday, August 1, 2014

Pious leadership shows its true colors

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM

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When I wrote in this space last week about Indiana’s conspicuous indifference to the plight of the border children, I didn’t consider the possibility that private households could and might take up the noble task that government was performing in Massachusetts and shunning here.

So, I’ve been surprised to see that more than 200 of the refugee kids have been placed with Hoosier sponsors.

I’ve not been surprised by the peevish, partisan, pandering response from our GOP leadership.

First State Sen. Brent Steele chides the feds for not warning Indiana officialdom this horde of foreigners was being “dumped” on our holy soil.

The Gov. Mike Pence tells them to go back where they came from.

Which, for many, is roughly equivalent to saying “Go to hell.”

After dispatching a stern letter to President Barack Obama as to the unfairness of burdening Indiana with the (speculative) cost of educating all these parasites, Pence demanded they be deported and that he be notified if any others show up.

Not that he didn’t feel “deep compassion for these children,” mind you.

Now, let’s grant that failure to give a state a heads-up that it is about to become part of a headline-making humanitarian crisis is a sin of omission. But let’s also agree that it is a venial transgression at worst, considering the numbers involved and the potential degree of state government involvement in these kids’ welfare, if any.

Small grievances, small men. Where Pence and Steele and their peers of both political parties see a problem — and somebody else’s problem — other Americans great and ordinary see innocent young victims of violence and poverty who are ours because they are here. Yes, bureaucratic and political and logistical sorting-out must be undertaken; but for God’s sake, where is the simple Christianity these powerful conservatives profess at every wink of the camera? Must Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts play the role of Good Samaritan, East Coast liberal foreigner stopping to help the wretch the righteous ones leave to the devil?

“I was a stranger, and you took me in. What were you thinking?”

It’s just so wearisome. The poor, the weak, the marginalized, the ones who most need help from the pious keepers of the Statehouse are the least likely to become a priority. Indeed, keeping their grimy hands out of the treasury to which the well-heeled have virtually unquestioned access is a proud goal of “fiscally responsible government.”

Sometimes, real money is at stake. Inner-city schools and city services may be hurting, but the business lobbies like tax cuts.

Sometimes, it’s ideology trumping practicality and common sense.

Spurning the gift of Medicaid expansion, a federal windfall even other Republican states have accepted on behalf of their low-income constituents, is a textbook example. Making a public show of protest over acts of charity toward desperate children, rather than thanking the people who stepped up, is a poetic one.

Just once I wish these guys would amaze me and toss their script. And I’ll tell you something else: Next time one of my rightwing kibitzers challenges my side to personally care for the downtrodden for whom our hearts bleed, I’ll say here, we did it, and the good deed got duly punished.

Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Phoenix: Rising from the Ashes of Abuse

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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I sat on the edge of her bed, held her hand and took a deep breath, preparing for the worst. She played the audio file on her cell phone.

Her long-time boyfriend's voice echoed in my ears as he hurled insults and obscenities at her like steak knives into a wall. His words stung me as if I was standing with them that night, an invisible third party to abuse I was never meant to see or hear.

I heard his fists violating her flesh. I heard her teary pleas to him, to God, to anyone begging for the physical assault to end. The sound abruptly ended just after. She had an old-model phone and only so many seconds of hell could be documented at a time.

Her hands — one wrapped in mine, the other barely cradling the evidence of her abuse — were weathered and pale. Her long, fiery hair fell around her hunched shoulders, shielding blackened bruises and tears from open view. I never knew brokenness, bravery and beauty to co-exist with such brilliance.

With the help of less than a dozen strangers, she parted ways with her abuser and embarked on a dangerous but hopeful journey to justice, restoration and safety.

That night, I found myself on the bathroom floor, allowing in every emotion I stifled in her presence. I cried for her. She was just one woman, and yet she was every person who found abuse where love, trust, and safety should have been. She was me. I prayed I would never see her again, that her absence from my life would mean she defied the odds stacked against her and flourished like the phoenix she was.

Still, the statistics haunted me:

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Nearly 60 percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse before age 18. One in six boys will be sexually abused by age 18.

17.3 percent of Indiana high school girls have been raped or sexually assaulted.

Reflecting back on the rise of the phoenix I'd gone to assist earlier in the day, I realized that while I was supposed to be strong for this woman, she was the strongest person in the house.

This woman, the phoenix, changed my entire trajectory in a brief few moments. She destroyed the inklings of my savior complex. She taught me the role of the victim advocate is not one of rescue missions, but of reciprocity. We held each other together, when we both would rather fall apart.

Behind each horrifying statistic are living, breathing people. Each time I stand in front of an Indiana high school health class of 30-some teenage girls, I wonder how many of them have been violated by a person they knew and loved. I try to reconcile the fact that a fourth of them may suffer domestic abuse.

Dismantling patriarchy, the origin of gender-based abuse, requires far more than basic victim outreach services. The harsh realities of abuse make reactionary programs, those that assist people who have already been affected, necessary. But how do we heal and grow from the damage that patriarchy has already done and prevent continuous cycles of abuse?

To transcend patriarchal ideology, we need proactive approached to gender inequity.

Today, I do not know what happened to the woman who changed my life. I hope she is well. I hope she is as free as the bird I imagined her to be. I wish I could thank her.

I have a new mantra now: May we burn down the pillars of patriarchy and rise from the ashes, loved, safe and restored. n

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Suffer the children

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Massachusetts welcomes the border children, at least its fair share of them. Texas calls out the National Guard to turn back their “invasion.” And Indiana, which has grown its own immigration laws in defiance of the federal government, goes all Switzerland in the face of a historic life-and-death crisis of conscience.

Who would have bet otherwise? Massachusetts children are better-schooled, better-fed and better-doctored than those in red states, and Gov. Deval Patrick must have felt the public was with him when he made the controversial choice to reach out to children desperate enough to risk their lives to reach harbor in a country they knew to be no sure thing. Children who are regarded first and foremost by President Barack Obama and his opportunistic adversaries alike as a problem.

What they are at worst, some 60,000 of them “invading” a rich country of 300-plus million, is an inconvenience. What their own lives are is a continuum of violence, fear and foregone dreams that cannot be written off to tough luck by any citizen of the United States with a heart and brain.

And with a genuine commitment to the Scriptures that are proclaimed so freely in the red states.

“I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions and our inactions,” Patrick said of his offer. “My faith teaches that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The governor, a Protestant, had stronger language as well to bring to bear, his words hauntingly ecumenical.

“My inclination is to remember what happened when a shipful of Jewish children tried to come to the United States in 1939 and the United States turned them away, and many of them went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps,” he said. “I think we are a bigger-hearted people than that as Americans, and certainly as residents of Massachusetts.”

Overstated? OK, but by how much? If violence and destitution in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not at depths below human tolerance, parents would not be sending their children off alone on a journey they might not survive to a destination that promises nothing. Regardless of the political complexities that make receiving them problematic, the country where they land hungry and frightened must make their welfare a national cause.

And “cause” has another important meaning. Loath as is any American politician, even a Deval Patrick or a Barack Obama, to raise the specter of the Empire of the North, it is not as though we are exempt from the strife and poverty that drive flight from neighbor nations.

We buy the dope that enriches and empowers the gangs. We sell them their guns. And at a deeper, more pervasive level, we have helped mightily to shape and misshape the economies that fail to provide the essentials for people to stay put. Go home? Undocumented immigrants would love to. It’s not all our fault that home is not an option, but Latin Americans were not shouting “Yanqui go home” all those decades just because we were the wrong color or talked funny. And it’s certainly not their fault that deindustrialization and outsourcing have crippled our own economy.

History’s never been the strong suit of American voters, and politicians are more than content to work with that. The Middle East, a topic for another day, is evidence enough. But even a little history shouldn’t be necessary for Americans and their leaders of all stripes to go all Massachusetts and put their immense resources behind the safety and humane disposition of these faces of the future of the Americas. Countries around the world with a bare fraction of our wherewithal have taken in vastly greater numbers of refugees. We can meet this challenge; and perhaps set a brand-new and productive tone to the larger immigration debate in the process.

Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bigger government (building) needed

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Shortly after I arrived at the Statehouse nearly two decades ago, lawmakers revived talks about constructing a new government building north of the Statehouse where there’s now a parking lot.

It never happened. But the need hasn’t gone away.

Lawmakers still work in cramped cubicles tucked in tough-to-reach spaces. And many of the state’s appellate court judges work in offices rented by the state, while other court functions are spread across private buildings.

But most importantly, the building doesn’t serve the public well.

Legislative committee rooms remain undersized and often incapable of handling the crowds that come to testify on bills. And school kids and other groups who come to the Statehouse have no space to organize or greet a tour guide or just stash their coats.

Of course, constructing a new government building is not cheap. When lawmakers debated the issue some 15 years ago, they envisioned a building that would have cost roughly $200 million. If the state borrowed that cash, it would likely make payments of about $16 million annually for 20 years.

The original buildings plans would have created enough space for judges, lawmakers and extra parking. That would have freed up space in the Statehouse for expanded offices and committee rooms.

There’s no doubt that same building would cost even more today. And for many Hoosiers, that would likely be a waste of government money. After all, Gov. Mike Pence last year cut funding to universities and is planning to do so again this year. He sold a plane to try to save cash – even though the state finished the fiscal year with some $2 billion in the bank.

And money is the primary reason the building hasn’t happened yet. Back in 2001, then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon vetoed a bill that authorized a judicial building. And a few years before that, then Gov.-Evan Bayh nixed similar plans for a building on that parking lot, the Indianapolis Business Journal reports.

Later, Bayh did oversee the construction of a second state office building just west of the Statehouse. That houses dozens of state agencies and is part of the larger state government complex that includes a larger office building and the Statehouse.

But the state has outgrown its space. It spends more than $31 million annually in lease payments for state agency space — a number that doesn’t include the rental costs for court offices, according to a story last year in The Journal Gazette.

Now lawmakers have asked the state’s Office of Management and Budget to study the feasibility of a new building.

One key question is whether a new building could actually save the state money by alleviating the need to rent office space.

But the focus of the study should be on how a new building could serve the public. Could an expansion make legislative and court hearings more accessible to Hoosiers? Will a new building allow for improved technology that makes monitoring government easier?

Could a new building offer students and other visitors a better educational experience?

If the answers to those questions are yes, policy makers should take a serious look at spending the money for a new judicial and government center. But if they’re no, then justifying the additional costs should be difficult.

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tax simplification is no simple matter

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 8:59 AM

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The Governor and his select invitees to his closed tax conference last month praised simplifying Indiana’s tax code. It is an idea better loved by Americans than baseball, apple, pie or motherhood.

There is no question that our national and state tax codes are enormous tomes when printed, complex and detailed beyond belief. How did they get that way? Blame the legislators who give special privileges to persons and businesses willing to plead their arguments (live or in cash).

For example, Indiana exempts $1,000 from taxation for each person in your household. Then, if the taxpayer and the spouse are 65 or older, they each get an additional $500 exemption. Plus, if the taxpayer or the spouse is blind, there is another $1,000 income exemption.

Wouldn’t it be simpler to count a person as a person without regard to age or disability? Why the exemptions for some blind persons and not all blind persons? In fact, why is blindness favored over other disabilities?

Do these exemptions clog our tax code because we desire to encourage having babies? Perhaps, we wish to help the poor and believe they tend to have more babies than the wealthy. We want also to aid people 65 and older, in part because we think they are more needy than younger Hoosiers.

The complexities of our tax codes arise from our fundamental concerns about being fair. When a good case is made to legislators about the difficulties of one group compared to another group, our elected representatives respond by making laws to treat the two groups differently.

We don’t just tax property, we tax the form of ownership (owner-occupied or renter-occupied). We differentiate between agricultural, commercial, and industrial uses. When a church is converted to a condominium, the land is taxed as residential rather than in religious use.

Some, who piously plead for tax simplification, want to extend the sales tax to services. Well, perhaps not all services. Often they will exempt medical services; then someone has to decide if teeth whitening or straightening is cosmetic or necessary for mental health. Maybe an argument could be made to exempt attorney fees from sales taxation. I doubt realtors want their commissions taxed. I know my barber is opposed to a tax on his services. And funeral directors? Are we going to make death more expensive?
Although it would be simpler to tax all consumer transactions, there is strong reason for not taxing services. Such a tax can be a direct tax on labor. You might as well raise the income tax.

When the plumber comes to my home, he charges for parts (which are subject to the sales tax) and for his time separately. Put a 7 percent sales tax on his time and you reduce his income by more than double the 3.4 percent of the Indiana income tax.
If we are going to have tax simplification, let’s understand what we are doing, or is that asking too much?

Friday, July 18, 2014

A private sector option for safer streets

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 1:18 PM

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We were in Edinburgh at the Pixy Theater waiting to hear the Wright Brothers play. For reasons I cannot explain, I began to think of the growing concern about public safety in communities across the state. It was an incongruous series of thoughts in that delightful setting.

What is the essential problem? Too many guns is one answer we hear. Inadequate policing is another. Insufficient attention to mental health problems. Prison sentences that are too short. Breakdown of the family. All these and others are valid arguments, but let’s try to get to the core of the issue.

Family members killing other family members is not the central fear most of us share. Mass shootings by deranged individuals make national headlines, but are not systemic problems of our Hoosier communities. Our concern arises from the ongoing violence among young people in urban areas. We wonder if, somehow, we could be incidental victims of flare-ups of street violence or drive-by shootings.

One solution to this problem is neglected too often: change the lives of these youngsters by increasing job opportunities for them.
Controlling the ownership of guns is desirable. Putting more police on the streets might be helpful. Yet, the life-changing effects of steady, well-paid employment are monumental.

The costs of putting more police on the streets are enormous. What if those funds were used to create useful jobs, at good wages, for young people (ages 16 to 25)? Some estimates indicate that an additional police officer, with supporting resources, costs $100,000 per year. How many jobs could be created, with necessary supporting resources, for $100,000? Probably three, no more than four.

How much more money is needed to bring the police forces of our major Indiana cities up to “full” strength? Five million dollars? Twenty million? Who is going to pick up the tab for this?

If we go to taxpayers, they will, as ever, deny government the funds to increase policing. What if we went to taxpayers and asked them for contributions for safer streets? Could we raise the funds from individuals and businesses in place of taxes? It’s an iffy proposition, but one worth considering.

Citizens and businesses are worried about their cities’ attractiveness for new residents and expanding businesses because of their reputation for street crime. One need think of only Indianapolis and Gary in this regard. Are those citizens and businesses sufficiently concerned to make voluntary contributions to a non-governmental organization that would train and find employment for young people? This could be a major funding opportunity for the many foundations in our communities. Do we need the compulsion of taxes to make our streets safe?

We hear the argument that many of the young are unprepared for jobs. Then let this private sector organization prepare them. The idea is to open opportunities without the encumbrances of government.

Mr. Marcus is an economist, writer, and speaker who may be reached at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Pence will be schooled for end run around Ritz

Posted By on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 10:20 AM

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Gov. Mike Pence misjudged his role when he effectively rendered meaningless the job of Glenda Ritz, whom voters chose to be superintendent of public instruction. He also misjudged the sure-to-come political fallout that will be worse than he expects.

The Libertarian Party of Indiana supports more school choice than Ritz would prefer. Still, that is absolutely no reason to cut her off at the knees as Pence did when he pushed the State Board of Education to alter its rules so that the board can immediately overturn any procedural decision made by Ritz (until now, that would come up at the next meeting) and board members may add agenda items with neither Ritz's consent nor advance public notice. This came after a 7-3 vote of members that he appoints.

Libertarians remind Pence that Hoosier voters elected Ritz, not Pence, to the head of Indiana's schools.

Just because Ritz and Pence differ does not mean he has the statutory authority to do her job. If Pence has a problem with her personally, too bad. Part of being an adult is dealing with people you disagree with. Besides, the governor does not have dictatorial powers. Sometimes he'll have to work with people who are - horror of horrors - not from his party. She does happen to be the only one, as all other state offices are Republican, as are both houses within the General Assembly. What would happen if a Democrat and Libertarian won statewide office this year? Would he try this stunt again?

Right now, Article 8 of Indiana's constitution prescribes an elected leader for our schools. Should it still be elected or would appointed superintendents work better? That's a great question, just like whether or not our constitutionally prescribed county coroners should be elected or if Indiana ought to switch to appointed medical examiners. It's a topic deserving of a lot of debate. Pence took the chicken's way out by pushing for what amounts to an edict without any serious debate.

The right way to address this would be to seek an amendment to Indiana's constitution.

Would amending the Indiana Constitution be frustrating? You bet.

That's the point. It's not supposed to be something done in a snit. Hint: This is a snit.

Changing the state constitution would entail passing legislation in two consecutive legislatures - in this case, the to-be-elected General Assembly will start its 2-year term in 2015, and another will be in 2017. Once passed, it would have to go before voters as a referendum in 2018 at the earliest - 2017 is an off-year for Indiana elections. By then, Pence would be hot and heavy in his campaign for president...er, he'd only fewer than two more years left on his tenure as governor, presuming he's re-elected.

This doesn't take into account how this egregious overreach will rile up the Democratic base. Our hunch is that this would bring Democrat donors to hand over their checkbooks, run for office themselves, take off work to campaign on Election Day - anything to make the Statehouse not-so-Republican. And as for Pence's re-election efforts, don't be surprised if he faces very strong opposition in 2016, with the rallying cry of ENOUGH!

And this doesn't take into account how this egregious overreach will create strange-bedfellow political alliances that will make passage of such an amendment very, very difficult. We Libertarians will be joined by others outside of the Democrat Party who find this power grab beyond the pale.

Pence's overreach deserves whatever political dope-slapping he receives. And he will receive a huge dope-slapping, loud and clear. Count on it.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Prosecutor indicts lawmakers about guns

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 4:00 AM

John Krull
  • John Krull

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry snorted.

I’d just asked him a question about the new gun laws adopted by the Indiana General Assembly, including one that allows people to bring guns onto school grounds.

Curry shook his head and said that he and other prosecutors have tried to tell state lawmakers that some of their ideas, such as allowing guns to be brought onto school grounds, aren’t good ones from a public safety point of view.

“They (state legislators) have made it clear that they’re not interested in hearing what we have to say,” Curry said.

Curry and I are in a studio, recording an interview for a radio program I host. It’s a Thursday morning. (You can hear the interview here.)

About 40 hours after Curry and I talked, a couple of people bumped into each other on a crowded sidewalk in Indianapolis north side neighborhood Broad Ripple in the wee hours of the morning. In true National Rifle Association fashion, both people decided to stand their ground and pulled out guns.

By the time they finished blazing away, seven people had been shot.

Then, later that same day, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Perry Renn and two other policemen responded to a “shots-fired” report on Indianapolis’s east side. When Renn and the other officers got to the scene a little before 9:30 p.m., they found Major Davis Jr. brandishing an assault rifle.

Davis fired on the officers. Renn fired back.

The exchange of gunshots wounded both men.

Davis ended up being transported to an Indianapolis hospital in critical condition.

Renn wasn’t so lucky.

The police officer died a little before 10 p.m. – maybe half an hour after he responded to the call for help.

And the city mourned.

Those tragedies had yet to occur when Curry and I talked, but they aren’t isolated incidents.

By the time the prosecutor and I sat down together, Indianapolis already had recorded more than 70 homicides this year. The city was on pace to threaten its 16-year old record for murder and mayhem in a calendar year – a dubious achievement, to be sure.

Curry made it clear in the interview that many factors are responsible for the homicide explosion in the state’s largest city. An illegal drug economy and culture – an ongoing problem that fuels both despair and violence – contributes a great deal to the abundance of tragedies in the community. A lack of meaningful educational and career opportunities also adds to the difficulties.

But the free flow of guns, Curry made clear, plays a role, too.

And it is not a constructive one.

He scoffed at the notion that the state legislators were toughening penalties for people using firearms during the commission of a crime. He pointed out that, at the same time that lawmakers made it possible for people to bring guns to school, they also adopted a new law that would decrease the time served for people who illegally use a gun.

Curry’s comments mirror those made by Indianapolis’s public safety director, Troy Riggs, when I talked with him a few weeks – and about another 20 murders – ago. Riggs said easy access to guns imperiled the city’s citizens.

Both Curry and Riggs also expressed frustration that state lawmakers weren’t interested in hearing from the public officials who have to deal directly with the consequences of gun-related violence.

And their criticisms came just a few weeks after a committee meeting in which state legislators berated citizens who were concerned about gun violence – and, in some cases, had lost loved ones in gun-related incidents.

The lawmakers made it clear they didn’t want to hear from those folks, either.

So, our legislators won’t listen to the prosecutors and law enforcement officials who have to deal with the explosion of gun violence we have in our state’s cities. They won’t listen to people who have lost family members and friends to guns. And they won’t listen to citizens who care about the carnage we’re seeing on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

All of that raises this question: When the subject is guns, just who the hell do Indiana’s elected representatives listen to?

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just Married: the journey to the same-sex altar

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 9:44 AM

That's Doug on the right, his husband Doc on the left
  • That's Doug on the right, his husband Doc on the left

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 started the same as any other muggy summer day in central Indiana. My "husband" and I woke up, fed the dogs, drank some coffee, and kissed each other goodbye as we each headed off to work. We, along with many Hoosiers, had been awaiting a ruling on the status of marriage equality in our state. The moment came, as such moments often do, as a complete surprise. I was at work hunched over spreadsheets, actively listening to a conference call when my phone buzzed: a news notification.

BREAKING: Federal court rules Indiana's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

I was astonished. Did I read it right? Could it be true? Could all the hard work and persistence of so many dedicated to marriage equality in our state have finally paid off? With shaking hands and my heart in my throat, I texted the news to my "husband." He responded within moments, but such monumental news couldn't be conveyed via text message alone.

On our lunch breaks, we had time for a quick phone call. Our excitement was tempered by suspicion and fear that the ruling would be stayed immediately. But for the moment, we had been granted the right for which we'd been fighting for so long, and our enthusiasm overtook us. The ruling had provided an answer, but also many more questions. Should we go now? Should we wait? If we get our license today, should we get married today? What about our friends and family? Should we ask them to meet us? Will they be upset if we go without them?

After a workday full of distraction and daydreaming for both of us, we decided to meet at home to discuss our plan face to face. On the way, we each called our parents, and received their support to go, and go NOW. I arrived home, and found my "husband" in the kitchen. We hugged fiercely, tears in our eyes. Our day had come! We decided wordlessly. We were getting married. Tonight!

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Having only told our parents, we drove to the City-County building in rush hour traffic, and arrived shortly before 5:30. Once inside, we strode down the hall to County Clerk Beth White's office. We were astonished to see a line of hundreds of people, all gathered for the same purpose: to profess their love and have it legally recognized by our state.

The line moved slowly, but no one seemed to mind. We all stood with expectant smiles on our faces. Some fidgeted nervously, while others were soothed by their soon-to-be spouses with soft words and warm embraces. Many couples were accompanied by family, friends, children and co-workers — the outpouring of support was overwhelming. Beth White was seen frequently moving up and down the line, offering congratulatory handshakes and assuring everyone in line that our patience would be rewarded. "We'll stay here tonight for as long as it takes," she said. As each newly married couple emerged from the clerk's office, cheers rose up from those of us still in line. We were all strangers, but it made no matter. We had won. LOVE had won.

After three hours of waiting in that stuffy hallway, we finally made it to the threshold of the clerk's office. Not only was the air conditioning inside refreshing, but so was the scene before us: couples waving their newly granted marriage licenses, joyful tears, smiles, laughter.

This is what many of our state's elected officials were fighting so hard to prevent?

We reached the Marriage Licenses desk and completed our necessary forms. Within moments, there it was: our official, legal marriage license. All that was left was to say the words. We were then greeted warmly by Beth White herself. She asked us how long we'd been together (11 years), whether or not we had rings to exchange (we did), and if we wanted a prayer included in our ceremony (I deferred to my future husband on this point — and he did).

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We were ushered into a separate room, apart from the frenzied celebrations happening in the office. It was hushed, with only occasional muffled cheers seeping through the walls. Ms. White asked us to face each other, join hands, and began to speak.

I admit that the specifics of the ceremony are a bit fuzzy for me. What I remember most is the enormous grin on my new husband's face (no more quotation marks from NOW ON), his reassuring grip on my hands, and Ms. White's gentle and loving tone. We exchanged vows, rings and kisses — and it was done.

Again I had to think: this is what a highly vocal minority in our state is fighting so hard against? A promise we make to each other in front of a legal official?

After having our license signed, we found ourselves back in the office swarming with other couples as eager and deserving as we were. We paid our necessary fees and got our official documents. And then it was over. We were married. Husbands for life.

As we left the City-County Building, hand-in-hand, we were met with more cheering and congratulatory sentiments. We experienced none of the derisive attitudes one might expect in our red state. Family, friends and strangers alike heaped praise and well wishes upon us.

Our love was finally recognized and celebrated. Love always wins.

Yes, the state's Attorney General requested and was granted a stay that once again prevents gay and lesbian Hoosiers from obtaining their marriage licenses. So the struggle continues, as we knew it would. For the lucky few that were able to secure the right to marry the person they love it was a small and long awaited victory. But for those who still hope one day they will be able to share the joy that we feel, it bears repeating: Love always wins. n

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Make Independence Day 2014 Count

Posted on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 2:55 PM

This Independence Day, honor our nation and democracy by making sure your voter registration is up-to-date in time to participate in this year’s important elections. Then, take a moment to ask your friends and family if they are registered to vote at their current address and have a current state approved photo ID. Call 866-461-8683 or click here for a list of approved forms of ID.

This year, the League of Women Voters of Indiana is committed to making sure voters have the information they need to participate in elections and ensure their votes count. We hope to vastly improve on the low voter turnout that was common across the state in the May primary. Please be sure you register before October 6 so you can vote on November 4. Your voice counts and your vote is your voice.

The first step to having a say on the issues that matter most to you is registering to vote. As we pause this week to mark our nation’s birthday, set aside just a few minutes to check on your registration status, as well as to start learning about the candidates and issues that will be on your ballot. VOTE411.org and LWVIN.org is the place to go for all of your election information throughout 2014!

Every election, whether local, state or federal, is important to ensuring our laws and policies reflect the values and beliefs of all Americans. Celebrate America’s 238th birthday this Independence Day by updating your voter registration or registering to vote for the first time, and committing to vote and participate in the greatest democracy in the world.

Amy Miller

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Hobby Lobby decision questions equality

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 12:29 PM

John Krull is the publisher at TheStatehouseFile.com
  • John Krull is the publisher at TheStatehouseFile.com
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell
Animal Farm

With the Hobby Lobby Inc. decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has managed to bring the English allegorical satirist George Orwell’s words back to life.

Orwell intended “Animal Farm,” his short tale of animals overthrowing an oppressive farmer before becoming more oppressive themselves, to be a parable about the Russian Revolution. A democratic socialist, he saw the upheaval that led to 70 years of communist tyranny as an example of unanticipated but predictable consequences – consequences that served to thwart the revolution’s supposed goals.

That brings us to America’s highest court and Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a successful chain of crafts shops whose owners proclaim they run their business based on evangelical Christian principles. For that reason, they went to court to fight the provision in the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – that required their insurance provider to offer company employees certain kinds of birth control. They claimed doing so violated their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed with Hobby Lobby Inc. Following reasoning similar to that they applied in the Citizens United decision, five of the nation’s justices determined closely held companies could have First Amendment free exercise rights. For all practical purposes, they determined that corporations were citizens themselves.

The response from many good government advocates took their cue from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s scorching dissent in which she pointed out the many ways corporations could use this decision to pick and choose which laws they will follow based on their avowed religious principles. That started a cottage industry of “what ifs.” Would it mean that companies owned by pacifists, for example, could withhold a portion of the taxes that violate their religious principles by supporting military campaigns? How about business owners who object to the death penalty?

Other critics pointed to the supposed hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby Inc., which buys goods from countries like China and its policy of forced abortions and even has invested in contraceptive manufacturing. They argued that the owners’ exercise of their religious views wasn’t so much free as highly selective.

All of that may be true, but it also is in many ways beside the point.

The real problem with the Hobby Lobby Inc. decision – and the Citizens United one that came before it – is what it does to the definitions of citizenship and equality before the law.

Normally I am in favor of expansions of personal liberty, even when I feel that liberty is likely to be asserted in pursuit of goals or issues that are perverse or wrong-headed. If America doesn’t stand for freedom, America then really stands for nothing.

But at the heart of that assertion of freedom is that it has to exist for all of us equally if it’s going to exist for any of us.

That’s what disturbing about this decision.

The “Inc.” part of Hobby Lobby Inc. is important. The act of incorporating involves an assertion by the owners that the corporation isn’t them – that it is a separate entity. This act of incorporation allows owners many protections that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them, not the least of which is sheltering their personal assets from creditors in the event of some misfortune of business.

But the owners of Hobby Lobby Inc. have asserted – and the five justices have swallowed – an argument that the corporation really isn’t separate, but instead is simply an extension of them and their personal religious beliefs.

And they have been allowed to do this while still being able to preserve the advantages – the additional protections – that come with being incorporated.

It is one thing for corporations to be granted the same rights that citizens have if those corporations are being treated in the same fashion that all citizens are. It is another thing altogether if those corporations are being granted citizens’ rights while being granted privileges not available to all citizens.

As Orwell said – albeit ironically – some animals apparently are more equal than others.

In this country, thanks to five Supreme Court justices, it’s now clear that the animals who are more equal than others are the ones with “Inc.” attached to their names.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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Hobby Lobby and selective guilt

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Dan Carpenter
  • Dan Carpenter

As a going concern in contemporary America, Hobby Lobby does business with all sorts of companies, organizations, countries and individuals whose practices are inimical to Christian beliefs as Hobby Lobby’s owners define them.

They buy from China, where forced abortion is government policy. They use oil from dictatorships that would not dream of permitting the sort of free expression Hobby Lobby (and co-litigant Conestoga Wood Specialties) petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold.

They no doubt have dealt with countless suppliers, and have served countless customers, who practice non-Christian religions, sleep with people of the same sex, follow the Affordable Care Act to the letter and vote straight Democratic.

Oh, and by the way, Hobby Lobby’s employee retirement plan has investments in contraceptive manufacturing.

And how can you avoid such entanglements? Even the survivalists who claim sovereignty over some patch of Texas or Idaho have to buy their pickup trucks and ammunition from the global network of shared guilt.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, like me, are about as pure as the driven snow in back of the asphalt plant when it comes to economic “morality.” We’re all complicit. How the high court could miss that reality is every bit as perplexing as its more glaring proposition that an abstract convenience called a corporation can have protected religious beliefs.

Provided the corporation is not too big, that is. How big is too big? Well, let’s just say not too big to fail to provide certain employees, thousands of them, certain benefits to which the law says they have equal rights. Personal corporations, if you will.

So the court’s majority limits the seismic ruling to some corporations, without really specifying who’s in. It limits its finding to women’s reproductive health (Hobby Lobby covers vasectomies), without addressing the long list of other medical procedures that raise somebody or other’s religious objections, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her scathing dissent. Blood transfusions. Vaccinations. Men and women working in the same room. Women working.

Finally, the court accepts the fatuous notion that engaging in commerce in 2014 can be limited in terms of political or moral taint. I stick a knife in Mother Earth every time I gas up my Toyota, and yet somehow Hobby Lobby operates in an impenetrable bubble of integrity?

This court will do whatever it takes to side with corporations in these confrontations between people and power – not Obama socialist power, but financial power. The embarrassing sloppiness of this ruling and its rationale, especially when held up against Ginsburg’s litany of what-ifs, affirms the allegiance. The perverse transfer of religious freedom from individuals to their bosses ices the cake. And the implications for both are anybody’s guess. The court majority may insist it built a little box; lawyers everywhere must infer it opened Pandora’s.

Next year, religion takes front and center with the same-sex marriage issue. The court is widely expected to concur with the 20-plus lower court rulings in favor. Corporations – large ones – generally like marriage equality and did not share Hobby Lobby’s sexual hang-ups on health care. Assuming they continue the corporate world’s winning ways, and then Hobby Lobby fires an employee for marrying his boyfriend . . . oh, tell me you wouldn’t buy a ticket for that one.

Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, a contributor to Indianapolis Business Journal and the author of “Indiana Out Loud.”

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