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Would you sign my petition to Sen. Joe Donnelly, Blue Dog-IN? Would you do it for your friends and relations? Would you do it for Harvey Milk?

Subject: Senator Donnelly: Support Marriage Equality


54% of Hoosiers oppose a ban on Gay Marriage, but Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is the primary author of briefs to the Supreme Court in the cases heard today, on California's Prop. 8, and tomorrow, on DOMA. We need you to stand up publicly to the bullies and bigots along with the majority of Hoosiers in support of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and families. I have married gay friends in California and elsewhere, and gay relatives who cannot get married in Indiana.

That's why I created a petition to Sen. Joe Donnelly (IN-2), which says:

"Senator Donnelly, Please take a public stand against those who would take away our Constitutional rights, particularly the right under the Full Faith and Credit clause to have a marriage valid in any state recognized in every other, and by the Federal government."

Will you sign this petition?


Let me unpack that below, and tell you where we are and how we got here, which means that we also have to look at the sorry history of slavery, racism, and immigrant-bashing in Indiana. Also, Donnelly is one of ten nominally Democratic Senators, listed below, who still oppose, or at least do not publicly support, Gay Marriage. Would somebody start petitions to the other nine?

We're going to unpack the history of LGBT rights in Indiana, and we are going to look back to Harvey Milk, who was both the first openly gay elected official in California, and the architect of much of the strategy that got us here, and will sustain us through to equality on this issue and others. We will also take a brief look at a way of understanding how that strategy works.

Although the question of gay rights has been in existence since the 19th century in a small way, it was first raised nationally in the US, and even globally, by the book (1959) and movie (1962) Advise and Consent. But that was only a question. Stonewall turned it from a question to a protest movement in 1969. Harvey Milk, "the Mayor of Castro Street" (and later Harvey Milk Plaza!) and later San Francisco Supervisor until his murder by Dan White in 1978, turned it into a civil rights campaign with a strategy for actually getting those rights, a strategy that we are still following.

Two key elements in that campaign were GOTV, to achieve political power, and coming out, so that everybody would discover gays among friends, colleagues, family, TV and movie stars, even politicians—everywhere, in fact—and get to know them. Both are needed today as much as ever, along with making it safe to come out, particularly for teenagers. On that topic, I recommend the delightful little book You Can't Say You Can't Play, by Vivian Gussin Paley, on how to confront and prevent exclusion starting in kindergarten, when we could make it stick if we kept it up.

The Evolution of Cooperation

Robert Axelrod wrote a book under the above title (now with a Foreword by Richard Dawkins) to explain an experimental theory about the ways that people work with and against each other, including strategies to increase cooperation over time. He gives examples of people who stopped shooting at each other in war time, the breaking down of caste systems, the survival of oppressed minority cultures, and much more. Readers will immediately see how to apply it to further issues of war and peace and of human rights. The idea, supported by computer models of the little game The Prisoner's Dilemma, is to increase the number of interactions with those you want to cooperate with, so as to increase the rewards of that cooperation and decrease the rewards of non-cooperation. Thus this theory gives us a deeper understanding of the importance of the "coming out" strategy and of sustained engagement. LGBT communities will also appreciate the explanation of survival of oppressed minorities through enhanced in-group cooperation. The worst case was of course Hitler's plan to kill off Jews, gays, and Gypsies, three of the toughest sets of survivors on the planet.

As is so often the case, it takes decades of repeated interactions to get the public to shift on a major social issue like this, and to raise the rest of the question, in this case full LGBT rights. Most of the time we mostly convert the young, leaving the old to die off in the normal manner. But forty years after Harvey Milk entered San Francisco politics, the nation has tipped on the issue, and we see closeted straight supporters of gay rights coming out in droves, in addition to actual conversions. I don't know which category Joe Donnelly would fall into, but I'll take his support if we can get it in either way, and cheerfully hold his feet to the fire if not.

Gay marriage is up to 58% approval in the latest poll. In 2009 Nate Silver built a model that tracked the polling available at the time, which indicated that Mississippi will be the last state to accept gay marriage, sometime around 2024. Given the acceleration in changes in public opinion since then, it may be time to run the model with updated polls. The shift was running a bit under 1% annually until we reached the tipping point, and at 2.5% or so since then.

It is starting to become normal for gay relatives of Republican politicians and conservative judges to be out not only to friends and family, but nationally, and to have a major political impact, even if not on current officeholders in most cases. Senator Ron Portman is the only Republican in Congress who supports gay marriage. His son Will recently wrote about helping his father evolve in the Yale Daily News.

Rights in Indiana

Although Abolitionists dominated the Indiana territorial government, and were active in the Underground Railway up until the Civil War, Gov. William Henry Harrison, the only Hoosier ever to be elected US President, was a slaveowner who tried to get slavery legalized in the state three times. The 1851 Indiana Constitution banned Black immigration. Much of the state was strongly Abolitionist, but the southern part near the Kentucky border was strongly racist. (When Abraham Lincoln arrived in Indiana from Kentucky, he was a pretty strong racist, too. He evolved. Most don't.)

By the 1920s migration from the south, especially Kentucky, meant that a third of men in Indiana were members of the Ku Klux Klan, which was almost as anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant as it was White Supremacist. The Klan was responsible for the legislation that segregated Indiana schools, and for the numerous "sundown towns" where Blacks could not live (not even as live-in servants) or even stay overnight. Some still exist.

Although there are only three active Klan chapters in Indiana today, it remains a predominantly Red and redneck state. The Region around Gary is Blue due to auto and related union membership, even though Gary could be the poster child for the Rust Belt. There are Blue areas around the universities, including IU in Bloomington and Purdue in West Lafayette. Indiana went for Obama in 2008 and Romney and our new Governor Mike Pence in 2012, but with enough ticket splitting for Richard "Rape as God's Will" Mourdock to be defeated.

Gay Rights in Indiana

As Gandhi said

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
I always add
…and then they claim that it was their idea all along.
They stopped being able to ignore us after Stonewall, and they stopped laughing in the time of Harvey Milk. I fully expect them to go on fighting after we win, as with Jim Crow and Roe v. Wade. But the It Was Our Idea idea started long ago. Libertarians will point to Barry Goldwater. Both the Johnny-come-lately Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud claim to be the real activists for marriage equality and other LGBT issues, because marriage equality is a Conservative value! LOLfacepalm.

Sodomy was illegal in the Northwest territory that included what became Indiana from 1795, with the death penalty for "buggery" from English common law. The Indiana code of 1800 has been lost, so we do not know what it said on this or any issue. In 1807, sodomy was made a statutory crime, with penalty of "a maximum of 1-5 years in prison, a fine of $100-$500, up to 500 lashes 'well laid on, on his or her bare back' and a permanent loss of civil rights." (500 lashes is more than sufficient to kill, if "well laid on". There would be no flesh left on the victim's back, and massive blood loss.) This was one of the harshest laws in the US. Statehood came in 1816. Weirdly, in 1831, the statute was repealed, restoring the common law death penalty, but then in 1852 the common law was restricted to civil cases, removing the criminal penalty and effectively legalizing homosexuality.

In 1881 this oversight was corrected. Unlike any other state, this new law said that whoever

commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, by having carnal knowledge of a man or a beast, or who, being a male, carnally knows any man or woman through the anus, and whoever entices, allures, instigates or aids any person under the age of twenty-one years to commit masturbation or self-pollution, is guilty of sodomy, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in the State prison not more than fourteen years nor less than two years.
I am going to pass over the case law, the forced sterilization of "confirmed criminals", and the "psychopathic offender law" that Indiana had in common with several other states. I give the reference below.

The last sodomy case in Indiana occurred in 1975. Indiana decriminalized same-sex sexual activity in 1977.

There was no need to have laws against gay marriage until the question was taken seriously. Although there were isolated statements and actions about the subject starting in the 1960s, it did not enter the wider public consciousness until the AIDS epidemic made inheritance rights of central importance to younger gays. Denmark took the lead on civil unions in 1989, and the State Bar Association of California took up the issue in the same year. Many actions both for and against followed, of which DOMA in 1996, the following flurry of "mini-DOMA" laws in various states, and the flurry of anti-gay-marriage state constitutional amendments in 2004 stand out, marking the beginning of a bleak period marked by many losses and only a few isolated court or electoral victories until 2012.

The Indiana mini-DOMA law against gay marriage came into effect in 2004. Every year since then has seen both proposals to repeal it, and proposals to put a ban into the Indiana Constitution. A ban passed both Houses of the Indiana Legislature in 2011, but it would have to be passed a second time in order to go to voters, and it has been put on hold this year.

Clearly we need more and better Democrats in Indiana, like everywhere else. We're working on it, and they, as everywhere, are dying off at the usual rate.

At the same time, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is the primary author of briefs to the Supreme Court in the cases heard on Tuesday, March 26, on California's Prop. 8, and Wednesday, March 27, on DOMA.

From the Indianapolis Star:

Erika D. Smith: Attorney General Greg Zoeller puts Indiana on wrong side of history in gay marriage fight

Indiana is in a lose-lose situation when it comes to gay marriage. Try as I might, I can’t see it shaking out any other way.
Indiana leading states supporting gay marriage bans
Faced with a dramatic shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage, Zoeller insists his leadership on the issue should not be seen as opposition. Instead, he says, he is arguing in defense of Indiana’s existing marriage law, and for the right of individual states to determine their own marriage rules.

“People always think it’s a personal advocacy when, in fact, I’m arguing our current state statute,” Zoeller said in a January interview. “If they tell us that we can’t limit the licensing of marriage, now we know.”

Yeah, sure. If you believe that, I have a dog whistle just for you. Such a deal! Only bigots can hear it!

Court watchers on MSNBC have been saying that Justice Kennedy seems to be signaling that he will let the California rulings stand and rule as narrowly as possible to repeal portions of DOMA. But one never knows until the opinions are released, months later. There will be many more Diaries on these cases.


Forty-five Democratic US Senators are in favor of gay marriage. Here are the most recent converts. If you live in their states, please thank them.

Claire McCaskill, Missouri; Mark Begich, Alaska; Mark Warner, Virginia; Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia; John Tester, Montana

You can thank Sen. Rob Portman, the lone Republican supporter (though only after his gay son came out to him), if you are in Ohio. Go on. It won't hurt. You can go right back to bashing him afterwards on all of the other Republican policies.

Huffington Post
Gay Marriage Rights: The 10 Democratic Senators Who Still Say No

The ten Democratic Senators who do not support marriage equality.
  • Joe Manchin, WV
  • Mark Pryor, AR
  • Joe Donnelly, IN
  • Bob Casey, PA
  • Kay Hagan, NC
  • Mary Landrieu, LA
  • Tom Carper, DE
  • Heidi Heitkamp, ND
  • Tim Johnson, SD
  • Bill Nelson, FL

Breaking: As of Wednesday, March 27, Kay Hagan supports gay marriage.

Much later: Sen. Bob Casey has flipped to support marriage equality. Announced on April 1, and before you ask, it is not an April Fool trick.

Sen. Casey Is Latest Senate Dem to Embrace Gay Marriage

As I asked above, will anybody start petitions to them, too, and tell us about doing it? This stuff works, you know?

Further Reading

Bet you didn't even know that Wikipedia had these articles. I didn't.

LGBT rights in Indiana at Wikipedia

Recognition of same-sex unions in Indiana at Wikipedia

Washington Post poll: Q: Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?

Even in the South, it is 50% for, 43% against, 7% other.

Slavery, Servitude and Civil Rights in Indiana

Freedom to Marry page on Indiana

The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States: Indiana

Schneider, Mary Beth (November 26, 2012). "Ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana could open Pandora's box of legal challenges"

The Mayor of Castro Street, by Randy Shilts


  • Indiana Equality is a coalition of organizations from around the state that focus on ensuring basic human rights for Indiana's LGBT citizens.
  • Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
  • Human Rights Campaign is the United States' largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

Indiana Equality Action

Are there others? Let me know and I will add them in.

Originally posted to Mokurai on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 07:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Remembering LGBT History, Indianapolis Kossacks, Friends of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Signed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annan, shopkeeper, suesue

    and I'm in his district

  •  Signed, and I'm not in Indiana (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shopkeeper, suesue

    but Massachusetts, where 10 years of marriage equality (more or less, since the Feds still won't recognize it) has had no negative effects on anyone. Which is basically what I told Donnelly. C'mon, everybody: sign. Numbers matter here.

    the success of all of us is built on the success of each of us

    by mortje on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:18:42 AM PDT

  •  Sure, as soon as you change the headline (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gramofsam1, annan, shopkeeper, Debby, suesue

    Marriage Equality.  I honestly thought that after November I didn't care what it was called, but I do. It's not gay marriage, it's not same-sex marriage, it's MARRIAGE.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall (h/t cooper888)

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:29:38 AM PDT

    •  Yes, that's what I said (3+ / 0-)
      Subject: Senator Donnelly: Support Marriage Equality
      Why don't you Diary that point?

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:44:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I went through the Diary and changed (4+ / 0-)

      "gay marriage" to "marriage equality" wherever it made sense to do so. I did not change it in material I was quoting, even my own petition. Historically, the anti-gay-marriage laws passed before DOMA were not about marriage inequality, but about forbidding certain marriages entirely. Marriage equality began to make sense in the context of civil unions not providing the eleven hundred plus Federal marriage benefits, and then full state marriages still not providing Federal marriage benefits.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:59:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well I think by now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    my thoughts on Senator Portman are pretty well known.  tl;dr I've got no sympathy for the guy.  Best of luck with Indy's own blue dog, I'm not sure how that will turn out.  Indiana seems a lot like western central Ohio (gee on the border with Indiana guess I shouldn't be surprised) which is very red outside of large cities, so it'll be a shock to me if he does come out to support marriage equality.

    "I don't want a unicorn. I want a fucking pegasus. And I want it to carry a flaming sword." -mahakali overdrive

    by Silvia Nightshade on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:48:42 AM PDT

    •  Pffft, (0+ / 0-)

      "I don't want a unicorn. I want a fucking pegasus. And I want it to carry a flaming sword." -mahakali overdrive

      by Silvia Nightshade on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:49:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's why I emphasized that the polls (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Silvia Nightshade, annan, shopkeeper

      show majority opposition to putting a gay marriage ban in the Constitution in Indiana. Even Republicans recognize this, and have put it on hold.

      Yes, we like our Antediluvian Republicans like Mike Pence, but not Old Stone Age Republicans like Richard Mourdock. When I was making phone calls during the last election campaign, I was getting a lot of crossover voters for both Pence and Donnelly.

      The question, as always in swing states, is whether we can make a better Democrat out of what we have. Donnelly needs to hear from Progressives. He needs to hear from gays. He needs to hear that this is a winning issue, and that this battle will be over when he runs again in 2018, so he should get on board right now when it matters.

      And in addition, we need to keep hitting him on contraception, abortion, and guns, all of which are going to become losing issues for Republicans and Blue Dogs alike.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 09:08:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I recently moved to Indianapolis (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jean Sloan, shopkeeper, Debby, suesue

    Bought a house, got a license, registered to vote.

    I'm signing right now

    We've been spelling it wrong all these years. It's actually: PRO-GOP-ANDA

    by Patriot4peace on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 09:02:08 AM PDT

  •  Tipped rec'd signed & hat tip (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kickbass, Mokurai, suesue

    Joe has agreed to support Background checks even at gun shows, so Im starting to warm up to him, if changed positions on this issue I would might even start to like the guy for his politics.  Southern IN resident.

  •  Why I won't sign... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1) it's easy.  The person who clicks a button on their computer screen, maybe enters an email address, and then goes about their day, feels good but has made no real effort to advance marriage equality rights.  This is the major public policy issue of the year, and calls for a great commitment by those  who profess to support it and care about politics and political decision making.

    2) it's a waste of time.  Setting aside the fact that a significant proportion of those participating aren't likely from  the State of Indiana, online petitions are only slightly more influential than the online "polls" news sites post.  What does a list of even 10,000+ email addresses do to influence a US Senator?  What does it say about WHY they support Marriage Equality.  Nothing.

    If you really care about this, close your web browser, open your word processor (or email program) and WRITE A LETTER.  In your own words.  Saying what YOU (not the petition author) think about Marriage Equality.  About how it affects you, your family and your friends.  Better still, pick up the phone, call Senator Donnelly's office and talk to his staff.

    Personally, as a deep pockets donor, I've made it clear to  incumbents, candidates, and Party Committees that my wallet will be closed to anyone who doesn't support progress on marriage equality, gun control or filibuster reform.  And they're listening.

  •  You prompted me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mokurai, suesue

    to write a thank you to my senator, Claire McCaskill, on the subject. I already called her office this morning concerning gun safety. (It was a pleasant call as opposed to the followup to Blunt which left me shaking and made me fire off an angry email. Probably on some watch list now.) I am wary of signing petitions to people who aren't accountable to me, or only marginally so, as a Democrat. Good luck, though!

    Get old and do lots of stuff in the process. Half of the fun is trying everything out. --Noddy

    by Debby on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 11:44:28 AM PDT

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