State Senator Threatens Libertarian Party Over Opposition To Marriage Discrimination Amendment? UPDATE: Senate Says E-Mail Spoofed

[UPDATED] The Libertarian Party of Indiana is rankled after one of its members received an e-mail purporting to be from State Sen. Connie Lawson (R) with a less than thinly-veiled threat over the party's opposition to the marriage discrimination amendment, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a 7 to 3 vote this morning. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long's Chief of Staff Jeff Papa has informed me that further examination of the e-mail leads them to conclude the e-mail was spoofed. Last week, Indiana School Superintendent Tony Bennett's office was the victim of a spoofed memo containing information Bennett supposedly put out concerning education reform. A State Police investigation should be launched to figure out who impersonated Sen. Lawson in putting out this potentially damaging e-mail. The Libertarian Party has not officially responded to the Senate's conclusion the e-mail was spoofed.

The e-mail response to one of the party's members presented as being sent by Lawson, who is the Senate Majority Leader, suggested the Republican Party may be forced to make "structural adjustments" if the opposition continues. The e-mail reads, in part, according to the Libertarian Party's press release:

I have come to realize that you have helped drive the Libertarian Party of Indiana’s most recent views against HJR-6 and SJR-13. While you do understand that I appreciate and respect your views on this issue, I do request that you keep these posts to a minimum. The Republican Party of Indiana does not wish to cause issue with the Libertarian Party of Indiana in any way, but should these oppositions continue to occur, we may have to make some structural adjustments . . .

I do appreciate your views and think that you have done a magnificent job in articulating an adequate viewpoint on these issues. While they are viewed as the most basic civil rights issues of our day, it should also be noted that continual political polarization in Indiana and in the United States could result in serious consequence should we not provide support and coalition together for the greater good of all Hoosiers . . .
The reaction to the apparently spoofed e-mail from the Libertarian Party's leadership was swift. “When a State Senator or their staff demand that a political organization remain silent on any issue, I consider this a very serious problem,” said Sam Goldstein, the Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Indiana. “If we aren’t silent, then what “structural adjustments would be made? I have personally reached out to Lawson’s office and the Indiana Republican Party to give them an opportunity to explain these statements, but we did not receive any response back. We have also been trying to confirm if this was a staffer using government time and resources or if these are the thoughts of the Senator herself. Either way she is accountable for these statements.”

Goldstein continued, “We are a bona fide political party. We are not servants of the Republican Party or the General Assembly, and we will proudly speak out against discrimination being amended into our State’s Constitution. Days after this email, we put out a press release denouncing HJR-6 and SJR-13. The desire to control the relationships of all Hoosiers is clearly spelled out in both Lawson’s email and these joint resolutions. Someone should remind Republicans that their legislative duty is to defend rights, not control behavior.”

Efforts by Senate Democrats in committee to remove by amendment a second sentence from the marriage discrimination amendment that expands the proposed gay marriage ban to include civil unions, domestic partnership agreements and other benefits enjoyed by unmarried couples failed in committee today. Indiana's Defense of Marriage law has barred same-sex marriages since 1996. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the statute in Morrison v. Sadler several years ago. Proponents of the constitutional amendment insist Indiana's Bill of Rights must be amended to include the ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions to prevent activist judges from overturning Indiana's current law, although there is no reason to believe an Indiana court would be able to do so given the Supreme Court's standard for overturning the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly.  Indeed, Indiana courts have rarely overturned laws enacted by the legislature because the standard for reviewing state law enactments poses such a high hurdle to jump.

UPDATE: Here is the e-mail Jeff Papa sent to Goldstein explaining why the Senate concluded the e-mail was spoofed:


The address it claims to be from has been manipulated. This is NOT an outbound email address that we have. It is an incoming alias only. We publish this address because it is easy for constituents to remember without writing down numbers and letters, but it is only an inbound alias. We never send out with this address. In fact, look at the text you sent me – it has clearly been manipulated – part of the email address is in hypertext link and the middle part is in regular black text. Further note the person also changed the email at the end to . Also, we cannot find any such email in our outbound email and Senator Lawson never wrote any such letter. We did not send this, or write the accompanying email. Maybe you can look at the properties of the incoming message on your end to see what domain it truly originated from. Let me know if you have other questions, but this did not come from us. It seems similar to the fraudulent/criminal email that was sent last week claiming to be from Dr. Bennett. Can you update your web statements to reflect the fact that it did not come from us and change the title or update it? Please let me know if you would like to discuss further – no one here meant any offense or silencing of the Libertarian (or any other) voice… especially since we did not send this letter.

Thank you for taking my call and discussing the matter. We don’t show any calls from you that were taken or not returned, but in any case If you ever have trouble reaching anyone at the Senate please call me on my cell at any time.

Jeff Papa, Chief of Staff
Indiana Senate
UPDATE II: Senate President Pro Tempore David Long released an official statement on the incident moments ago confirming the Senate's believe the e-mail is a "hoax." “The most recent ridiculous incident involves a state senator supposedly threatening the viability of the Indiana Libertarian Party,” Long said. “This follows closely on the heels of a March 10 e-mail blast regarding proposed education reforms and attempting to embarrass State Supt. of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett. Both messages were complete hoaxes and should be disregarded as such.” A subsequent Indiana State Police investigation may result, Long said.

UPDATE III: The Libertarian Party has responded with this message from Sam Goldstein following the disclosure by Senator Long's staff that the e-mail was a hoax:

We sent out a press release this afternoon with a memo regarding a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. After further investigation we have determined that we were the victim of a similar hoax as the one that befell Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett last week. Our party cares deeply about accountability and transparency, so we want to be the first to confirm to you that this email was not sent from a state government email address.

This email was sent to us February 9, 2011, but we released it today. We wanted to take the time to hear the other side of the story before sharing it with our membership and the media. Unfortunately, answers were never provided.

The person working on our social networking sites at the time received the email first. We called the Indiana State's Senate Office to speak with Senator Lawson about the email's contents immediately after we were made aware of its contents. We were never able to get through to the Majority Leader for clarification.

We also reached out to the Indiana Republican Party last week, and provided them with a hard copy of the email. After no response, we felt it was time to make the public aware of this information, and hopefully get some answers that way.

We do not know where the email came from, or what motives were behind the hoax. We have and will cooperate with any authorities that wish to pursue this matter to get answers. We also apologize to the other victim of this hoax, State Senator Connie Lawson. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

In Liberty,

Sam Goldstein