HJR-3 — a government attack on Hoosier liberty

Indiana lawmakers seek to use the state constitution to restrict individual freedom. If Hoosiers value their liberty, they’ll oppose HJR-3.

Posted on Feb. 9, 2014 at 10:12 a.m.

Hoosiers say they love freedom. HJR-3 says otherwise.

House Joint Resolution 3 seeks to amend the Indiana Constitution. It originally consisted of two sentences:

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

Worried that they’d overreached by also barring civil unions, the House removed the second before approving the measure, 52-43. Hearings on HJR-3 begin Monday in the Senate Rules Committee.

But with or without a ban on civil unions, HJR-3 attacks Hoosier liberty.

Indiana adopted its constitution in 1851. Voters amended it over the years to address taxation, term limits, elections and the courts, among other issues. But as the Indianapolis Bar Association points out, HJR-3 is different.

This amendment targets individual Hoosiers.

“Prior amendments dealt with what government could and could not do, and how the government is to be formulated and operated,” the group said in a statement opposing HJR-3, “not the regulation of its individual citizens.”

Rep. Eric Turner, speaker pro tempore, doesn’t care. Despite the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, in effect since 2004, Turner authored HJR-3 to enshrine a strict definition of marriage in the constitution.

That, Turner believes, will protect it for eternity. But nothing protects unconstitutional laws, no matter where they’re enshrined.

Daniel O. Conkle, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law, points out that adopting HJR-3 probably only delays the arrival of same-sex marriage in Indiana.

“Recent developments nationwide — not only in the U.S. Supreme Court but in courts and legislatures across the country — suggest that the 14th Amendment may soon be understood to protect a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” Conkle wrote. “In fact, as a matter of federal constitutional law, state constitutional amendments sometimes are subjected to a greater scrutiny than state statutes, so HJR-3 might even be counterproductive to the cause of preserving traditional marriage.”

At the same time HJR-3 hastens the demise of traditional marriage in Indiana, it threatens to damage the state’s economy. Eli Lilly, Cummins, IU Health and other big employers say approval of the amendment hurts their ability to attract new talent. Many of the state’s leading universities and colleges agree.

Once again, Turner doesn’t care. He argued that the fastest-growing state economies in 2011 all had constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

The nation has changed since 2011. Singling out same-sex couples for discrimination now in the Indiana Constitution will be perceived, correctly, as an act of hostility. An intolerant and backwards state cannot hope to recruit the best and brightest minds — or, for that matter, retain the entrepreneurs and educators we cultivated prior to HJR-3.

Yet a criticism has emerged that opponents of the amendment only make economic arguments; they don’t address the moral issues at stake.

One out of every five children in Elkhart County lives in poverty. Nearly 25 percent live with food insecurity. More than 20,000 of the county’s schoolchildren — almost 56 percent — qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches.

Any action that threatens the state’s ability to attract and retain good-paying jobs is not in the best interest of Indiana families; any amendment that promises to leave thousands of children trapped in poverty is immoral.

Give voters the chance to decide, the amendment’s supporters say. As if representative government boils down to majority rule.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If we value liberty, we protect the rights of those in the minority.

HJR-3 steamrolls anyone who doesn’t hold the same religious views of its chief advocates, including Gov. Mike Pence. They argue that regardless of whatever beliefs they hold, all Hoosiers must be constitutionally compelled to abide by the biblical tenet that marriage is between a man and a woman.

States acknowledge and license marriages because those relationships confer legal, medical and financial benefits. Those benefits do not depend upon adherence to any faith; they originate in the law and apply equally to all Hoosiers.

Governments codify moral behavior to protect individual liberty and promote the common good. No one can argue that killing another human being inflicts a grievous blow on a community, and thus the state makes it illegal to commit homicide. But even within the Christian community, believers increasingly disagree on the acceptability of same-sex marriage.

The state should not be the arbiter of religious belief.

Indiana lawmakers seek to use the state constitution to restrict individual freedom. If Hoosiers value their liberty, they’ll oppose HJR-3.

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