Evangelical lobbyists like Advance America’s Eric Miller are reasonably assured a victory with SJR 7, the amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage, this legislative session. But Evangelical watchdogs believe another bill working its way through the House of Representatives attacks traditional values and they are using the full force of their political machine in opposition.
“Should homosexuals and cross-dressers get special protection?” Miller asked in an e-mail action alert to thousands of churches and families concerning House Bill 1459, the “hate crimes” legislation.
“This bill establishes a very dangerous precedent because it would create two classes of victims,” Miller warned. “[It] represents an attempt to give special protection to homosexuals and cross-dressers by stating that a crime against them is to be treated with more severity than a crime against a senior citizen, a child or a pregnant mother.”
Though Miller is a lawyer, he seems to have misunderstood HB 1459 at best and misrepresented it to his constituents at worst. The truth is that the legislation is in no way a legal precedent. Over the past 10 years, all but five of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia have passed hate crimes legislation similar to the one being debated this year in the Indiana Legislature.
Additionally, Miller failed to inform the recipients of his e-mail that Indiana law already has multiple classes of victims — including more severe punishments for those who commit crimes against children, the elderly, the mentally handicapped, pregnant women and law enforcement officers.
Another inflammatory aspect of Miller’s call to arms against HB 1459 was the deliberate omission of the true scope of the legislation. His e-mail did not mention that the bill was written by one of the most venerated African-American members of the Indiana House of Representatives, nor did he mention that the legislation defines a hate crime as one committed against someone on the basis of their skin color, race, religion, national origin, creed, disability, sex AND sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It is wrong for the government to mandate special rights for the homosexual lifestyle — a lifestyle that many consider immoral,” Eric Miller contends.
He did, however, warn of the potential, and entirely fictitious, possibility of a threat the hate crimes bill poses to thousands of churches and tens and thousands of Christians across the state.
“This bill represents a step in the wrong direction with regard to free speech,” he warned. “Will the next step be to prohibit speech that someone views as hateful? For example, will legislation be introduced to prohibit pastors from speaking out against the homosexual lifestyle from the pulpit? Call or e-mail your representative and ask them to vote no on House Bill 1459.”
Apparently, Miller’s pleas were heard. The Statehouse was reportedly flooded with calls and e-mails from concerned Evangelicals who had received Miller’s message and registered their opposition to the hate crimes bill.
At the end of the week, Republican state Rep. Jackie Walorksi she pushed through an amendment to the bill that included language that would make a crime against an unborn fetus a hate crime. Once Walorski’s amendment was added, the measure failed to garner enough support from the remaining House members for passage.