Council rejects anti-discrimination policy The Indianapolis City-County Council voted 18-11 on April 25 to reject amendments to the city’s Human Relations Equal Opportunity Code. Eric Miller erroneously warned that businesses would be forced to hire homosexuals if the amendments passed. The changes, known as Proposal 68, were drafted and recommended by the Equal Opportunity Advisory Board primarily to update and expand Indianapolis’ anti-discrimination policies. It would have been the first update in nearly 25 years.
Had the measure passed, Indianapolis would have been the eighth city in Indiana to offer anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation, and would have placed Indianapolis among more than 275 local and state governments that offer such protection.
The Human Rights Equal Opportunity ordinance would have provided an expanded anti-discrimination policy:
“The council finds that the practice of denying equal opportunities in employment, education, access to and use of public accommodations, and acquisition of real estate based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disabled veteran or Vietnam era veteran status is contrary to the principles of freedom and equality of opportunity and is a burden to the objectives of the policies contained herein and shall be considered discriminatory practices.”
Though the amendment offered many chances, including language protecting the disabled, veterans and families, opponents focused their objections on the inclusion of sexual identity in the non-discrimination policy.
The same groups that sponsor and support the state’s proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage launched a vigorous e-mail campaign urging City Council members to vote against extending human rights under Proposal 68.
Advance America, the self-proclaimed “largest pro-family organization in Indiana,” led by former council member Republican Eric Miller, warned that by passing the proposal, “The government would be granting special rights to homosexuals.” In his view, “It is wrong for the government to mandate special rights for the homosexual lifestyle — a lifestyle that many consider immoral.”
Miller also erroneously warned that businesses would be forced to hire homosexuals if the amendments passed, and “if the government can impose this requirement on businesses in 2005, than the next logical step for the government in Indianapolis would be to require churches and religious schools to hire homosexuals, too.”
Councilman Greg Bowes said he had received more than 1,600 e-mails in the days just before the meeting and was genuinely concerned about the misinformation groups like Advance America had been propagating.
“I hope no one makes a decision based on this type of information,” Bowes told the council. Reading from an e-mail sent by Miller, Bowes urged the elected representatives not to be swayed by false claims such as the warning that “this type of ordinance is the beginning of a gag order on many churches and ministries.”
“If you’re believing that,” Bowes said, “then you are just misinformed. Please, let’s not vote on fear, let’s vote on fact.”
Miller took time before Monday’s meeting was called to order to personally greet all the Republican members of the council, including Councilwoman Ginny Cain. Prior to the meeting Cain had personally responded to many of the e-mails she had received and made no secret of how she would vote on the anti-discrimination ordinance.
“I will never support something that is meant for the destruction of human beings and civilization,” her e-mail response promised.
Council Vice President Joanne Sanders asked the council to “recognize that what we are talking about here are civil rights. Each of us is created equal under the law and in the eyes of the God to whom we choose to respect.”
Without discussion or public testimony, the majority of council members rejected Proposal 68 and its expansion of anti-discrimination policies. The measure is now effectively dead.