Focus on the Family fixes its beady eyes on South Bend
Well, if the fundies can't seem to keep a grip on power in national politics, they're still able to keep the Calvacade of the Bigots going on a local level.
I came to South Bend, IN from New Orleans, LA in 2003 for graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame. My 2nd year at ND the school pushed for a ban on the performance of The Vagina Monologues for the purposes of raising money for the YWCA and the Women's Health Care Center. The purpose was two-fold: 1) to silence voices of sexual dissent on campus by deeming the play to be out of sync with the school's Catholic character, and 2) to prevent students from raising money for women's causes that could be construed as supporting abortion (the YWCA and WHC both offer abortion and planned parenthood counseling).
The same year (2006), a group of concerned citizens in South Bend lobbied for the Human Rights Ordinance, a piece of legislation designed to extend employment, housing, and other non-discrimination policies to lesbian, gay, and transgender residents of South Bend. Thanks to the bloviations of conservative groups, including a strong contingent from Notre Dame, the ordinance was successfully quashed.
In 2007, we in South Bend find ourselves in the midst of mayoral election between incumbent Steven Luecke and Juan Manigault. Manigault's campaign is managed in part by the Wabash Group, LLC. Wabash Group proudly counts among its clients, the American Family Association and James Dobson's Focus on the Family. In fact, Advance Indiana posted this interesting tidbit on Juan Manigault:
During a forum for mayoral candidates Thursday at Indiana University South Bend, Manigault was asked in an audience-submitted question whether he could “separate your personal religious beliefs from your duties as a civic leader,” and “how does this play into your views on discrimination against the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community?”
Manigault said that as mayor, he would be mayor of all citizens. “But I'm also a man of faith, and that guides my decision-making.””I'm a man of color. I know what discrimination is,” Manigault said.
The candidate said he does not believe in special rights for any particular group, other than groups that “it's obvious, like myself, or African-Americans, or women.”
For groups that it's hard to determine what their sexual preferences (are), I don't support special rights for that population,” Manigault said, “because I believe strongly, and in my heart, that those individuals are already protected under the Constitution.”
Manigault said he would support and work hard to ensure that every citizen in the city is not discriminated against, “but I will not support special rights.”
As a black mayoral candidate, Manigault has been lobbying the black community in the economically depressed West South Bend area fo support. In particular, he has been preying upon Luecke's failure to develop the West Side. However, Luecke has done a great deal to revitalize South Bend's downtown area, as well as initiate real estate and development iniatives to capitalize on South Bend's biggest revenue generator, Notre Dame football.
I find it particularly galling that Manigault feels so comfortable in playing the race card on this issue while simultaneously seeking to deny the privileges from which he has benefited to others. What is particularly egregious here is his use of his racial heritage to justify himself as an arbiter in matters of discrimination. As a gay white male who supports affirmative action, racial equality, women's rights (all of them, not just some), and an academic specializing in slave literature and culture from the 19th century Anglophone Caribbean, I am disheartened by the conviction with which some African American politicians to engage in this kind of equivocation.