When Indiana Sen. Mike Delph launched what some are calling a Twitter filibuster in support of a proposed same-sex marriage ban, critics were quick to ask him a pointed question: Do you even know any gay people?
“When was the last time you had a REAL interaction and built a relationship if communication with a gay person?” one person tweeted.
The Carmel Republican had a ready response: “My brother Steve, my entire life.”
In an interview with The Indianapolis Star, that brother, Stephen Delph staunchly defended his brother — though not his position on gay marriage.
Despite the senator’s efforts to ban same-sex marriage, his older brother, a 46-year-old Carmel resident, said they have a tight-knit relationship.
“I did his wife’s makeup for his wedding,” Stephen Delph said. “I’ve babysat their kids. After the death of my father and grandmother, Mike was the most supportive.”
Stephen Delph said his brother has seen him win pageant titles in drag and has met his boyfriends. Once, Mike Delph even tried to set him up with a gay friend, Stephen said.
“During his swearing in, I’m down there with makeup and long hair and Ralph Lauren turtle neck, meeting everyone and he had no problem with that,” Stephen said. “He knows I’m artistic and different and he has no problems with that at all....Never once has he called me evil or an abomination. He’s never told me I’m un-Christian-like.”
In fact, his younger brother stuck up for him after Stephen came out as a 13-year-old student in Carmel-Clay schools.
“He got in fights to defend me,” Stephen said.
That information may come as a shock to some gay rights advocates given the senator’s relentless defense of a constitutional same-sex marriage ban now pending in the Indiana General Assembly.
After failing to get his fellow GOP lawmakers to go along with his effort Thursday to also ban civil unions in the legislation, Delph fired off more than 200 tweets within 18 hours.
He took shots at several local churches, Republican leadership, and The Indianapolis Star.
“And that folks is our self absorbed Godless culture that is fast tracking our nation to ruin,” one tweet said.
“If I believe that sin separates a person from God and heaven is paradise, do I truly love that individual if I say or do nothing?” he said in another.
During the Twitter spree, critics slammed Delph. Some tweets got personal. When one person criticized Delph for home schooling his children, he shot back: “Classy! Attack my daughters. You need your ass kicked!”
Even though he disagrees with his brother’s position on gay marriage, Stephen Delph said he loves his nieces and is disgusted that they’ve been brought into the fray.
“There’s below the belt and then there’s at the toe nails. That’s at the toe nails,” he said. “I’m very concerned if the gay community is doing this.”
Stephen Delph said he has made an effort to sway his brother on the issue of gay marriage.
“We’ve had numerous talks about it,” Stephen said. “I have asked him to consider, if I have a significant other and it gets to that level, how would you feel if we adopted a child?”
But so far, he hasn’t moved his brother, he said.
“He doesn’t hate homosexuals. He just believes in the traditional marriage values. He’s a conservative. He makes no bones about it,” Stephen said. “It’s like one person saying my favorite color is purple and the other person saying my favorite color is yellow.”
Mike Delph declined to comment for this story, but said he would be making an announcement of some kind on Monday.
The Senate is expected to approve the constitutional gay marriage ban on Monday, but a second General Assembly will have to approve the measure next year or in 2016 before it can go to voters for final consideration.
In the meantime, Delph’s position on gay marriage is likely to stay in the forefront. He’s running against an openly gay Democrat in the November election.
J.D. Ford, a 31-year-old senior director of recruitment at the International Headquarters of Theta Chi Fraternity, said Delph’s Twitter-thon has brought unexpected attention to the campaign in a district that is heavily Republican.
“The campaign has gotten a lot of attention, which I’m happy about,” he said. “The election in November is going to present a very clear contrast. Voters can choose Sen. Delph’s views, or they could choose a different candidate like me who won’t berate them for expressing a different opinion from mine.”
Star researcher Cathy Knapp contributed to this story.
Call Star reporter Tony Cook at (317) 444-6081. Follow him on Twitter: @indystartony.
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