PHIL WIELAND: Gay rights in Indiana more than a mammoth task

2013-07-18T20:38:00Z 2013-07-18T20:42:05Z PHIL WIELAND: Gay rights in Indiana more than a mammoth task nwitimes.com
July 18, 2013 8:38 pm

The recent discovery of a mammoth in such good condition that its blood was still in a liquid state raises the question of whether a prehistoric creature will someday be found in such pristine condition it can actually be revived.

That possibility raises the question of, once something of such ancient origins and limited thought patterns is finally brought to life, how long will it be before it's elected to the Indiana Legislature? Or put in charge of the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

It is believed the fossilized remains of trilobite intelligence was what prompted 20 legislators to sign a letter at the close of last year's session asking the BMV immediately to halt sales of the Indiana Youth Group specialty plate. The IYG provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in Indianapolis.

The request came after the assembly failed to pass a bill banning the IYG plate. The BMV happily stamps out specialty plates for an amazing array of organizations, including fans of wild turkeys and of spaying and neutering pets, but supporting gays was a bridge too far for the 20.

To be fair, which is something I like to do occasionally, the legislators also asked for the suspension of two other organizations' specialty plates. The reason they gave for the "request" was the organizations had violated their BMV contract by selling the plates.

Each organization gets the first 99 plates off the press. The IYG wasn't actually selling the plates. They were giving them away to people who donated to the IYG.

IYG Executive Director Mary Byrne said this is a common practice, so it probably wasn't hard for the legislators to find two others to suspend, just to make it look like they weren't biased against the IYG, even if they are.

The plates were yanked and the IYG filed an appeal, which is allowed. The BMV's own administrative law judge recently ruled the IYG did, indeed, violate the contract, but that was not sufficient cause to suspend the plate and she ordered the BMV to resume offering it.

Instead, BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell ordered the judge to reconsider the decision and to let the BMV offer a few more arguments to support its case since the judge apparently wasn't impressed with the first batch.

The IYG responded by asking the federal courts to end the charade and force the state to issue the plate. Just when it seemed the legal battle would go on for years or until the trilobites truly were extinct, the state again lists the IYG plate as being available.

Instead of trying to ban the plate, maybe the 20 should pass a law changing Indiana's tourism branding slogan to "Nothing to be gay about in Indiana."

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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