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City Council passes "gender identity" ordinance

By Scott Tibbs, April 20, 2006

I watched on television last night as the Bloomington City Council voted 9-0 to add "gender identity" to the city's Human Rights Ordinance. Unfortunately, it took too long to get there: it was 8:10 by the time they got to the first item on the agenda that was up for a vote. The city should follow the same policy that the Monroe County Council adopted after the Republicans took control of the council in the 2002 elections and move public comment and reports from council members to the end of the meeting.

It could be worse, as past meetings have dragged on until past 9 p.m. before the City Council finally gets around to deliberating the items on their agenda that they will be voting on. (Keep in mind that City Council meetings start at 7:30.) It is disrespectful both to city taxpayers and to city employees to make them wait while long-winded elected officials drone on about items not on the agenda.

On the "gender identity" ordinance, I have to again ask why the city feels it needs to "run up the score" with an extended presentation supporting the change in the law. The "gender identity" ordinance was a done deal from the moment it was put on the agenda. All nine members of the city council knew it, supporters of the ordinance knew it, and opponents knew it.

It was mentioned, first by City Councilor David Sabbagh (R, 5th) and by others, that Governor Mitch Daniels has implemented a non-discrimination policy in his administration that includes "gender identity". Other Councilors, including Sabbagh's only fellow Republican, mentioned this as well. However, Sabbagh and others conveniently "forget" that the Governor's policy is a policy of his adinistration, not a law passed by the state legislature. That is an important detail.

Bree Hartlage spoke on behalf of the ordinance as part of the city presentation, saying that an attack on a black couple downtown is an example of why Bloomington needs protections for "gender identity" Had the assault been against someone because of his or her "gender identity", the Human Rights Commission would not have been involved. I question why the HRC needs to get involved in "hate crime" cases in the first place. We should not have special classes of victims and we should not adding extra punishment for thoughts and beliefs, no matter how offensive those beliefs might be. Instead, we should punish all violent crime as harshly as legally and Constitutionally permissible.

Hartlage said "no one deserves to be attacked". No one disagrees with that statement, and it is a gross misrepresentation of the opponents of this ordinance to lump violent criminals in with those who oppose special protections for "gender identity" in city code and city government should not be endorsing such misrepresentations in a city presentation. As I said above, we don't need gender identity protections to stop "hate crimes", we simply need to harshly punish all violent crime.

Hartlage said that he made a change and now accepts himself as God intended him. If God intended that Hartlage be a woman, why did God make him biologically male? What really happened here is that Mr. Hartlage made a choice to live as a woman.

Rebecca Jiminez spoke as part of the city presentation. She claims to be a Baptist minister and is speaking from "a Christian perspective". Once again, I was amused by the blatant and brazen hypocrisy of city government and supporters of this ordinance. They love to speak about "separation of church and state" when people of faith object to this amendment, but have no problem with bringing a minister to speak as part of the city's presentation.

Jimenez read many different versions of the "golden rule" across many different "religious traditions". My answer to this statement is that I want people to point out my (many) sins and hold me accountable for them. If I was unredeemed by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would want people to show me how to escape the bondage of sin. Jimenez cannot pick and choose what parts of the Bible to accept and which to ignore, especially the inconvenient parts about sexual sin.

Since I was not feeling well and was unable to attend the meeting in person, I sent my opinion column to the City Council. Sabbagh read the column shortly before the meeting. He made a remark during his comments in response to my statement that I am a "Christian, conservative Republican, in that order" by saying he is a Republican first. I ask the question I have asked many times: if a political party does not stand for core principles, what good is that political party? What good does it do to elect Republicans if they abandon the core principles of the Republican Party?

Both Chris Gaal (D, at-large) and Andy Ruff (D, at-large) expressed disappointment that more opponents were not there. Gaal said the discussion is good to have even if people disagree with the outcome. The problem with Gall's statement is (as I said above) that everyone knew this was a "done deal" from the moment it was proposed. When opponents know their objections will be discarded, why spend the time to go to a city council meeting and speak?

The lament by Steve Volan (D, 6th) that the attitude that the "gender identity" ordinance is a foregone conclusion depresses dissent harms democracy can be fixed if the people of Bloomington choose to vote for ideological and philosophical diversity in 2007.