Political rivals come together on anti-discrimination ordinance


There are issues on which City Council President Rick Sharp disagrees with Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard. So many that Sharp decided to run against Brainard for mayor earlier this year.

Brainard won with more than 60 percent of the vote and Sharp remains on the City Council until January.

Sharp always like to say he was running “for” mayor and not “against” Brainard. He liked to say he was a “candidate” not a “challenger” or an “opponent.” He said he ran a positive campaign in his view.

But the fact of the matter is that Sharp and Brainard disagreed. They agreed enough to mean thousands of dollars worth of campaign TV ads to argue their points.

But on the issue of the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, Sharp and Brainard are in agreement.

During a mayoral debate, Brainard and Sharp were asked if Carmel needed to pass such a law, similar to the one in Indianapolis. The question came as the national media attention from Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was ongoing.

Both agreed that such a law would be a good idea. Sharp said he would have to see the language but he said the rollout of RFRA wasn’t good for the state.

Months later, Sharp is sticking to his position. Again, he would like to analyze the language of the ordinance but the spirit and intent is something he wholeheartedly supports.

“The way I come down on this – and I know this will disappoint some of my friends – is that while the Bible is being quoted to me, I can’t help call to mind other biblical quotes, and I’m paraphrasing, about, ‘Judge not les ye be judged,’ ‘Love thy neighbor,’ and ‘We are our brother’s keeper.’ Whether you’re gay or bisexual or lesbian, it’s not for me to judge. It’s for me to love,” Sharp told Current in Carmel. “It’s no question that this segment of our community faces discrimination on a blatant level or a subtle level. And I don’t know see anything wrong with our community standing up and saying, ‘We will not tolerate bigotry.’”

Sharp himself once entered seminary school because he was interested in becoming a priest. He decided that wasn’t the path for him, but not because he isn’t religious. He said he’s a man of faith, but he said his religion is very personal to him and he doesn’t like to flaunt it in his role as a public servant in government.

Sharp said he’s someone who believes in small government. He believes in the free market and that it can often regulate itself. But when it comes to discrimination, he said it’s time for government to step in. He compares to fight for equal rights that gay and lesbian groups are engaged in to the civil rights movement. He said he doesn’t think being gay is a choice, it’s the way you are born, just like being born black or a woman.

“In our heart of hearts, we all abhor discrimination and bigotry and I see nothing wrong with a community standing up to say we won’t condone these kinds of practices,” he said. “I don’t believe in legislating morality but there’s a time when the government has to step in for the greater good.”

Why is this news? Because many people assume that Sharp – a vocal critic of Brainard – opposes the mayor on every single issue. But that’s not true. This is one example of where they agree. In fact, many of Sharp’s political supports and friends disagree with him on this issue.

“But that’s OK because we can have civilized debate,” he said. “I’ve already received e-mails that said, ‘Even if you don’t change your mind on this, we’ll still like you, Rick.’”