Linda Perdue, president of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats, said they flipped a coin over coffee at Vic’s in order to decide which gubernatorial hopeful, Vi Simpson or Joe Andrew, should speak first at the Democrats Unite fund-raiser. As it happened, Andrew won the toss. Vi Simpson meets the Stonewall Democrats. The Indiana Stonewall Democrats (ISD) is the state organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Democrats and their friends. On Thursday, June 19, the ISD brought Andrew and Simpson together at the Athletic Club for their first joint appearance in Indianapolis. A cordial group of around 80 people chatted quietly over drinks and finger food. Candidate stickers and hand-outs were strewn across white tablecloths in the banquet room; small placards bearing the names of Simpson and Andrew were affixed to the back wall, bracketed by artful portraits of same-sex couples. The presence of the candidates at this event spoke to the clout the ISD wields in Democratic Party circles. Indeed, the room was packed with state and local office holders, including Mayor Bart Peterson, state Rep. David Orentlicher and City-County Councilor Monroe Gray. State Rep. Ron Liggett and City-County Councilor Karen Celestino Horseman were on hand to receive awards for their legislative efforts — proposals to prohibit discrimination in the work place based on sexual orientation and to provide Indianapolis city employees with domestic partner benefits, respectively. “You are on your way to electoral power in Indianapolis,” Horseman told the group, noting that there are now 32,000 GLBT voters in the city. Given the general voter apathy seen in recent elections, this block is large enough to be a determining factor in future races. For Andrew and Simpson, this was an opportunity to reaffirm their loyalty to the interests of this constituency. For the members of the Stonewall Democrats it was a chance to see the candidates side-by-side and to accelerate the process of deciding who will stand the best chance of winning the governor’s race in 2004. “You don’t have to be black, gay, female or poor to know discrimination is wrong,” declared Andrew during his remarks. Andrew spoke with a low-key intensity declaring that people of faith must stand up for equality and against injustice. The former head of the Democratic National Committee used various quotes from national and international newspapers to document his record of support for an inclusive Democratic Party. “I don’t care what gender you are, or what gender you want to hold hands with. As long as you want to hold hands we want you in the Democratic Party,” he said — twice. Although he was speaking to a group that had just presented awards to two officials for introducing initiatives that were ultimately defeated, Andrew asserted that what he called “moral victories” would not suffice in the next election. Jobs, he said, would be his top priority, and he linked Indiana’s economic recovery to a culture in which “everyone is treated with respect and equality.” For her part, Simpson began by ruefully saying, “It is wonderful to be in a room full of Democrats because I’m a member of the Indiana State Senate.” Simpson, whose style was plain-spoken but firm, noted that, “Many of you know me … we’ve walked together” over the course of the 19 sessions she has served in the Statehouse. “I lead with my heart,” she said. Simpson claimed that she is being tagged with three labels: that she is a woman, a liberal and from Bloomington. “I reject those labels,” she said, adding that she stands for “conservative values.” Simpson said those values include business innovation, that people should keep more of their earnings than they pay in taxes, support for hate crimes legislation, domestic partner benefits, adoption rights for gays and lesbians and that government should stay out of doctor’s offices and bedrooms. “I’ve stood with you on a lot of important issues,” Simpson told the group. “If you want politics as usual then I’m not your man,” she concluded with little apparent irony. Although they kept a physical distance between each other before the program began, both candidates seemed determined to play nice for their audience. How long this affability can hold is both a question and a concern. A primary fight could drain millions of dollars from Democrat coffers that party leaders would as soon spend on the main event versus the Republicans. In the meantime, given a campaign where perceptions of electability will probably matter more than differences on the issues, Simpson and Andrew will do their best to convince party members that style is substance after all. Three reasons to get tested for HIV this Friday1. One-third of HIV-positive people are unaware that they are infected. 2. Rates of HIV infection are on the rise for heterosexual women, African-American and Latino men and women, and people under 25. 3. Half of all new HIV infections occur in people under 25. Friday June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, and over 40 clinics around Indianapolis will be offering free or low-cost HIV testing. Testing is confidential or anonymous, and results are available in two weeks. For a list of sites in your area, call the CDC’s National HIV Testing Day hotline at 1-800-342-AIDS, or visit www.hivtest.org. —Summer Wood

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