Republican leaders in the General Assembly think they’ve fixed HJR-3, the proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage. They’re kidding themselves.
Their hopes of enshrining a form of state discrimination as part of the Indiana Constitution is just as mean-spirited, just as misguided, unnecessary, counterproductive and damaging as it was when they first advocated it, and if it goes to a vote this fall, it will hurt the state beyond repair.
Indiana law already prohibits same-sex marriage. But that doesn’t go far enough for some lawmakers, who proposed adding two sentences to the state constitution:
“Only marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman will 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.”
The General Assembly approved it overwhelmingly in 2011. If it passes the Legislature again this session, it goes on the November ballot.
But not without a fight.
Employers including Eli Lilly & Co., Cummins, Emmis Communications, WellPoint and IU Health all lined up against the amendment. So did the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, along with the Bloomington and Fort Wayne chambers.
“The proposed marriage amendment does nothing to help show the nation that Indiana is a place that welcomes all, not just some, and we must be mindful of how actions such as this will impact our competitiveness on a national and global level,” John Thompson, chairman of the Indy Chamber board of directors, said in a news release.
Many of the state’s leading colleges and universities, including Indiana University, Ball State, Butler University, Indiana State, IUPUI, the University of Indianapolis and the University of Evansville, oppose the amendment for similar reasons. So do nearly 20 mayors from both parties, a list that extends from Greg Ballard, R-Indianapolis, and Jim Brainard, R-Carmel, to Dick Moore, D-Elkhart, and Allan Kauffman, D-Goshen. Four city councils — Indianapolis, New Albany, Evansville and Valparaiso — also oppose the amendment.
They consistently argued approving HJR-6 would send a message to gays everywhere — you are not welcome here. In a state where unemployment continues to exceed the national average, a state that ranks 44th nationally in college degrees, we must concentrate on attracting the brightest minds and best talent, no matter what their sexual orientation. We cannot afford to drive them away.
Neither can we afford to divert our attention from the most crucial issues we face — economic growth, education and access to health care — for even a moment.
Yet that’s exactly what the General Assembly did last week. Two local lawmakers, Reps. Timothy Wesco, R-Mishawaka, and Wes Culver, R-Goshen, co-authored HJR-3, the formal proposal that goes before the House Judiciary Committee for consideration Monday.
Clearly worried about its prospects for passage, however, Republican leaders tried to soften HJR-3 by filing a companion bill stating the constitutional measure is not intended to prohibit employer health benefits for same-sex couples or local ordinances forbidding discrimination.
Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long say the bill should clarify what the amendment is meant to accomplish. Bosma, though, insists HJR-3 forbids civil unions. Long expresses doubts.
“I’m not sure I can say definitively civil unions wouldn’t occur under this language,” Long told reporters for The Indianapolis Star.
If the two top Republicans in the General Assembly fail to agree on what House Bill 1153 means, it doesn’t clarify anything. Nor is the bill a valid companion to HJR-3.
Jennifer Drobac, an Indiana University law professor, told Indy Star reporters that a bill clarifying a constitutional amendment must go through the same process as the amendment itself.
“How can this companion bill change the constitution, if this bill hasn’t been passed by the voters or gone through two legislatures?” Drobac asked.
Courts could consider the General Assembly’s intent, said Gerard Magliocca, a law professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, but he told The Star they wouldn’t be compelled to follow it.
So, far from clarifying the amendment, the companion bill can be expected to invite costly legal challenges — on top of fights that could lead the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ban if it is approved by Indiana voters.
Pass HJR-3, send it to voters in November and watch the state tear itself in two as outside money pours in on both sides of the issue. It is a fight Indiana cannot win; no matter what happens at the ballot box, if the amendment goes that far, Indiana will be indelibly painted as a place that does not value diversity. Other states will use that image against us for years to come, and they will attract the best minds, not us.
Their economies, fed by vibrant research universities and aggressive corporate investment, will expand and thrive. Ours will wither and die.
HJR-3 cannot help Indiana. It can only hurt us.
Kill it now, before it’s too late, and focus on the things that truly matter to our state’s future.