'Sexual orientation' policy remains sore spot for Ind. governor
INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Indiana’s evangelical Christians are continuing to voice alarm over an employment policy instituted by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels granting special rights to homosexuals.
Daniels, who took office in January, revised the state’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy by adding the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected categories in state employment, fulfilling a campaign pledge.
Several thousand Indiana residents have sent e-mails to the governor protesting the policy change since it was instituted in late April. Many of them lamented a difference in Daniels’ longstanding claim to be a Christian and his state hiring policy.
Daniels, the former national budget director under President Bush, regularly joined the president and other Cabinet members in prayer at the White House. Additionally, after becoming Indiana governor, he established the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to help religious groups compete for state contracts; he also initiated a religious training program for state prisoners and has advocated placing a monument with the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Indiana capitol.
But Indiana evangelicals, despite their strong support for Daniels in his election victory over former Democratic Gov. Joseph Kernan, see the state’s new EEO policy as a radical departure from standard anti-discrimination laws.
Micah Clark, executive director of the 12,000-member American Family Association of Indiana, was particularly bothered by the words “gender identity,” which he described as a fairly new term on the policy landscape that’s being promoted by homosexual activists as a new civil rights classification.
A bill with that controversial term was soundly defeated by the Indiana legislature two years ago.
“The way it was defined in the bill was that your identity is what you identify with, regardless of your biology,” Clark told Baptist Press. “So if I say I’m a woman, in spite of my mustache, identify as a woman in spite of the fact that I was born a man, that’s who I would be.”
Clark wrote a short letter to the Indianapolis Star over the issue that referenced civil rights leader Jesse Jackson’s disagreement with gay activists who say the battle for homosexual rights is equivalent to the struggles for rights by racial minorities.
Jackson’s quote, which the paper omitted from Clark’s letter, noted, “Gays were never called three-fifths of a person in the Constitution ... and they did not require the Voting Rights Act to have the right to vote.”
The American Family Association of Indiana subsequently joined with several other Christian groups, including the Indianapolis-based Advance America, in calling for the governor to rescind the EEO policy.
Despite the pro-family groups’ concerns, Daniels is maintaining his stance.
“The governor believes that no one should be treated differently because of their sexual orientation or their sexual preference,” his press secretary, Jane Jankowski, said. “This policy does not extend special preferences to people based on sexual orientation. We don’t have a program in place in the state to go recruit homosexuals to state employment.”
Social conservatives in Indiana, while supporting Daniels on most issues, differ fundamentally with him on this one.
“There are three issues I will not ignore as the head of AFA, regardless of the persons or political party involved,” Clark said. “They are pornography, abortion and homosexuality, because each destroys lives.”
Eric Miller, executive director of Advance America, a pro-family, pro-church education organization, wrote to his supporters July 21: “The governor’s policy has the potential for creating hiring goals for state government based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He concluded that the policy was flawed and pointed to a study by University of Notre Dame Professor Charles Rice, which found that the EEO language could pose legal hurdles for the state as well.
“Common experience supports the expectation that the policy will generate a practice of implicit hiring goals which would be effectively indistinguishable from quotas...,” Miller stated. “Moreover, rights such as those conferred on homosexuals by Gov. Daniels can be used by activists to justify legal recognition of same-sex marriage.”
Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, takes issue with Daniels’ claim that Indiana’s EEO policy now complies with both the spirit and letter of state and federal law.
“What state and federal law?” LaRue asked in a mid-June news release. “There are no federal or Indiana employment laws that give special protection based on ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity.’ The governor is making up law, not complying with it. Executive activism is as bad as judicial activism.
“The practical effect may be that state agency executives cannot take into account anything regarding sexuality, including whether men wear dresses, makeup, high heels or other feminine garb, or act in an outrageously unorthodox manner,” LaRue stated. “As a protected status, ‘sexual orientation’ can justify conduct interpreted as being part of personal identity, or ‘who I am.’”
Donald Wildmon, founder of the national American Family Association, in an e-mail sent to more than 23,000 supporters, noted that the policy was an “elevation of changeable homosexual behaviors to the same level as the benign genetic trait of race or skin color. He added, “The governor’s policy contains language supporting the broad concept of ‘gender identity,’ which can equate to special rights for cross-dressers.”
According to the AFA’s Center for Law and Policy, under Indiana’s policy, “homosexuals, cross-dressers and others with gender identity issues are entitled to special privileges not available to heterosexuals and men and women who dress in a manner consistent with their biological sexes.”
James Patterson is a journalist in Indianapolis. He was an award-winning editorial writer and columnist at the Indianapolis Star, where he had worked from 1989 until his dismissal in May. He and another award-winning editorial writer and columnist, Lisa Coffey, who left the paper in 2003 after 13 years of employment with the company, have filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in federal court. Their suit describes the Gannett-owned paper as hostile toward Christianity and Christian employees.