A move to equality or cause for concern? Elkhart County reacts to gay marriage rulings

Local reactions to Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage cases

Posted on June 26, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on June 26, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.

GOSHEN — The debate is far from over.

The U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage served as a victory of sorts for those who favor same-sex marriage, but not everyone in Elkhart County is cheering. And the issue is likely to continue being a lightning rod, with calls from some to move forward with efforts to define marriage in the Indiana Constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

“Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, God’s law and standards never change,” said Pastor Janet Cook of River of Life Community Church in Elkhart, who disagrees with the high court’s action.

State Rep. Wes Culver, a Republican from Goshen, said he’d like to see state lawmakers take up the issue and put a ballot question to voters next year on whether to define marriage in Indiana as the union of one man and one woman. Gov. Mike Pence and other GOP legislators issued similar calls.

“Even though I have my own beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman, I believe this is an issue that Hoosiers themselves need to voice their opinion on,” Culver said in a statement. “I would like to see this issue progress through the General Assembly and the matter placed on a referenda ballot for Hoosiers to decide.”

On the flip side, Amy DeBeck, reverend of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart, said she’ll keep up the call to allow same-sex marriage, even in Indiana.

“I’ll begin to be happy when I can perform all kinds of weddings in Indiana,” she said. The rulings Wednesday, June 26, by the Supreme Court are “a step in the right direction, but it’s certainly not a completed task.”

The high court issued two rulings Wednesday. One struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex married couples, and the other left untouched a lower court decision that deemed a California ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

The decisions spurred a range of responses here, as they have nationwide, underscoring the contentiousness of the issue.

“Certainly as a Christian and as a Christian pastor, I’m really disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” said Pastor Andrew Wollman of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Goshen. “The country and the world have been heading this direction as pointed to by the scriptures.”

Bob Moore, leader of a conservative tea party group, the Elkhart County Patriots, questions whether it’s the government’s role to decide on personal things like marriage. But to him, it’s clear that Christianity doesn’t condone same-sex marriage and same-sex marriage can have a corrosive effect on society.

“I fear for our society if we embrace it because it won’t be good for the long run, for the long-term viability of society,” he said.

Meanwhile, Karl Shelly, pastor at Assembly Mennonite Church, planned a celebratory service at the Goshen Church Wednesday evening in response to the court action.

“We as Christians talk about breaking down walls, so I celebrate the court’s decision,” he said. “As a Christian, I’m encouraged when society moves away from discrimination and towards equality for all people.”


Just as Culver, Pence and other lawmakers were quick to address the court rulings, Joe Losco, chairman of Ball State University’s political science department, said he foresees increased debate here in Indiana on the matter. The more immediate issue, statewide, becomes whether to put the same-sex marriage question on the November 2014 ballot.

“Today’s decisions mean the political battle lines in the states are drawn, and the battles will commence,” Losco said. The two sides “will start today” to lay the groundwork for their causes.

Presuming the GOP-led state legislature decides during the 2014 session to put the question to voters, it then becomes a battle by the two sides to encourage voter turnout in the November 2014 vote. A Ball State survey late last year showed that 54 percent of respondents oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Indiana.

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