Some Carmel residents opposed to Carmel’s proposed anti-discrimination law


Tonight, the Carmel City Council will consider an anti-discrimination ordinance that hopes to prevent businesses from turning away people based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity and numerous other distinctions.

This comes on the heels of the fallout from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed by state legislators earlier this year.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is urging passage of this law to help send a statement that Carmel doesn’t discriminate.

He said, “it’sthe right thing to do” but also that this ordinance will help attract out-of-state companies to relocate to Carmel.

A rally is being held at 5 p.m. at Carmel City Hall prior to the 6 p.m. Council meeting. This rally is to encourage passage of the ordinance, but many protestors on the other side of this are expected.

Some groups are already rallying their troops to oppose the new law. Before every council meeting there is a time when anyone from the public can speak and there is no time limit on speeches, so one might expect some remarks at the beginning of the meeting tonight.

This blog post is not an endorsement of one side of this argument or another, but a chance to examine the different points of view.

We don’t have poll numbers in Carmel specifically so it’s hard to know if this point of view is in the minority, but we do know that six out of the seven city councilors sponsored this ordinance and Council President Rick Sharp said in a public mayoral debate that he supported the law.

So it’s believed that it will pass.

But let’s hear from City Councilor Eric Seidensticker, the lone councilor to not sponsor the legislation. He won’t say how he’ll vote but he talked to Current in Carmel about some of his concerns.

Here is some of what he said:

“I don’t think it is necessary and more importantly, I think it’s aimed at the wrong target. The target should be our children, people growing up, people’s whose minds can be changed.”

“You can legislate the way people think. The only way is to change the way people think. Let me put it this way. They made it illegal to drink alcohol for a period of time. They didn’t stop it. The only thing they can do to stop it is to do education.”

“I don’t discriminate. That’s not the way I was brought up. But discrimination is not something you are born with. It’s a learned behavior.”

“It’s the law of unintended consequences. This will open up the door to people who want to test the law.”

“Common sense tells us not to discriminate. It’s not right. It’s not reasonable. You are taught in the church that discrimination is a bad thing.”

“We’re trying to put a band-aid on a much larger problem.”

“It’s totally political.”

“I think the free market can handle this. This is government intruding into people’s private businesses. Now you are talking about what’s underneath the covers. The private sector can police itself pretty well. If someone was discriminatory in a bad way, people would vote with their feet and their dollar bills. We already do that. People would post it online and people would stop supporting those businesses.”

“All we have to say is, ‘We don’t allow this in Carmel.’ We don’t need the law.”

“This doesn’t speak highly in the mayor’s opinion of humankind. I believe in the people more than I believe in the government.”

“When you talk about the transgender thing, they now say that men can go into the women’s restroom and women can go into the men’s restroom. And in my experience women are very sensitive about men going into the women’s restroom. I believe in the right to privacy.”

Weekly WIBC radio host Pete Heck wrote a column recently criticizing the proposed law.

He wrote:

“Pardon my cynicism, but this move isn’t about “doing the right thing.” If it were, why arbitrarily pick out this one issue and act, instead of a host of other things we could equally say would be “the right thing?” The answer is obvious: this is about placating an aggressively loud and intimidating LGBT lobby. It’s about garnering the accolades of a complicit media. It’s shameless pandering by politicians desperate to be allowed to sit at the cultural cool kids’ table, regardless of the damage it will inflict on their fellow citizens.”

“And let’s not forget the real targets of this dangerous ordinance: men and women of faith. The narrow religious exception of this unnecessary government action would not apply to Christian day cares that don’t want to keep a grown man in lipstick and stilettos employed so he can confuse the children in their charge. Nor would it protect any citizen of goodwill who doesn’t share Mayor Brainard and his rubberstamp council’s radical views on marriage and sexuality.”

I have to disagree with the characterization of a “rubberstamp council.” Brainard campaigned against four of the seven councilors who are currently serving and will decide this vote. The new council doesn’t take office until January.

Obviously there are two sides to this argument and it’s fair to say that a majority of the people in elected office are supporting this anti-discrimination ordinance. Mo Merhoff, president of OneZone, which includes the Carmel Chamber of Commerce, spoke out in favor of the ordinance. Business leaders spoke out.

So there’s a lot of passion on both sides. It should make for an interesting debate tonight.