Human rights, police merger pass on second try.


Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis, December 19 - The police merger and gay rights had both come up for a vote during the past year and both failed.

It was a different story Monday night during a special session of the Indianapolis City-County Council where both passed.

The votes drew a packed house with most there for the vote on the gay rights ordinance. One supporter boiled it all down. "This vote is about housing, the right to get a house for your family and a job to support them. That's all it is."

Outside, local clergy, who opposed the proposal, gathered for a candlelight vigil and prayer. "Allow them to see that their decision today can be a decision of darkness or light."

Council president Steve Talley, who lost both votes before, emerged from caucus confident. "Both are going to pass."

First up was the plan to merge the Indianapolis Police Department with the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Republicans offered two amendments to change and postpone it.

Councilor Phil Borst spoke for the GOP. "There is no plan, no detail. There are a lot of legal issues out there."

Both amendments were voted down. When the time came to vote on the merger itself, it passed 16-13 with Republicans Scott Keller and Lance Langsford supporting it.

Langsford explained his vote. "The fact that we get to keep 48 police officers. We're not laying them off. We're keeping 78 police officers that we were going to lose through attrition. And we're putting 44 firefighters back on the streets."

Fraternal Order of Police head, Vince Huber admits this is a big loss for his organization. "We were sold out by Councilor Langsford and Councilor Keller. They sold out law enforcement. They sold out their constituents."

Councilors then took up Proposal 622; protecting gays, lesbians and transgenders from discrimination. It too passed on a 15-14 vote with Democrats Ron Gibson and Patrice Abdullah, formerly 'no' votes, switching to 'yes.'

Abdullah says, "It was not a hard decision. It was one I wanted to resonate with the community."

A supporter explained his feelings. "Tonight we are made part of society as a whole. It is no longer okay to throw us out of our jobs or our homes. It is a victory."

But not everyone celebrated. Opponents called it dark day for the city.

The merger ordinance will take longer to implement than the rights ordinance. A committee which will oversee the changes begins its work next month. Full implementation of the merger plan will that until the beginning of 2007.