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(Sarah Welliver/The Elkhart Truth)
Same-sex marriage, voting bill discussed

Posted on Jan. 8, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers:

Members of the Indiana General Assembly could drag this state into an unnecessary, counterproductive argument over same-sex marriage that not only would last most of 2014 but alo do nothing to confront the most pressing issues facing Hoosiers.

Or lawmakers could make a much wiser decision: Allow HJR-6 to die during this year’s session.

What is the case for inaction on the proposed amendment?

An easy answer: Setting aside HJR-6 would spare Hoosiers a bitter debate that would distract our state from focusing on vital issues such as strengthening education, growing jobs and improving health.

If lawmakers insist on putting it on the ballot in November, HJR-6, which would add a same-sex marriage ban to the state constitution, would leave Hoosiers deeply divided. Advocacy groups and political action committees on both sides would fill TV and radio airwaves and the digital space with attack ads for months. Nearly every political, religious, business and academic leader in the state would be forced to take a public stand because of the high-profile debate. Neighbors and communities may well be pitted against each other in a sensitive, emotional argument that’s ripe for creating misunderstanding and lingering distrust.

What would be gained by it all? Nothing of value. Pass or fail, the amendment would not change existing law in a state where same-sex marriage already is prohibited and no serious effort is being mounted to change that fact.

And, if the amendment is passed, the argument almost certainly would not end in November. Lawsuits likely would follow, and that’s a scenario that should prompt opponents of same-sex marriage to ask themselves a pertinent question: Do they really want a federal judge to determine Indiana’s final position on same-sex marriage?

The U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned California’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. A federal judge recently lifted Utah’s ban. Opponents of same-sex marriage could inadvertently trigger the same result here if they insist on pressing ahead with an amendment.

The nearly yearlong debate over the amendment also would send harmful messages to the rest of the nation and world about what Hoosiers truly value. Although a majority of states — 28 — have adopted constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, most did so several years ago. The trend in recent years has been in the opposite direction. Illinois, Iowa and 16 other states now allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

By virtue of its late entry into the discussion of a constitutional ban, Indiana would become the subject of intense focus in the national and international media. The signals sent to potential employers and workers from outside Indiana would trumpet that we are a state that does not welcome diversity.

That’s why top employers such as Eli Lilly and Cummins and universities such as Indiana University and Ball State have taken such a strong stand against the proposal. The amendment would hurt their ability to recruit top talent from around the world.

Bottom line: HJR-6 is unnecessary; same-sex marriage is already banned by state law. The debate would be counterproductive; like it or not, the argument would define our state this year and in the future in the minds of many Americans. The legal fight would be ongoing; lawsuits and federal court rulings almost certainly would follow in the years ahead.

It’s a fight we don’t need. A distraction from more important issues such as education and the economy that we can’t afford.

— The Indianapolis Star

Voter suppression efforts have become so common that it’s reasonable to assume a straight-ticket voting bill filed for the upcoming legislative session is among the latest. But Sen. Mike Delph’s proposal to remove party-line votes from Indiana ballots can’t be so easily dismissed. While some argue the intent is to favor a particular party — Delph’s Republican Party, in this case — election results don’t show a clear benefit for Indiana Republicans. Party leaders might have determined the same because Delph’s earlier attempts to pass such a bill have gone nowhere.

In Allen County, for example, the GOP would seem to benefit if its supporters have the option to cast a straight ticket. In the 2012 general election, straight-party GOP ballots totaled 32,999, while Democratic ballots came in at 25,062. ... Democratic ballots surpassed GOP ballots by a whisper-thin margin in the 2011 city election: 6,857 to 6,828.

For his part, Delph argues the legislation is about a more-informed electorate. “We should at least have to look at the name of the candidate before granting them power,” the Carmel lawmaker wrote in a recent tweet.

Tough to argue with that.

— The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne