Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Indiana constitutional same-sex marriage ban 1: Tully right and eloquent in the IndyStar.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

In its entirety, here is Matthew Tully's essay from the IndyStar. Next, we'll check back with State Representative Ed Clere to see what condition his condition is in.


General Assembly should drop proposed ban on same-sex marriage

This is the time of year, these early days before the General Assembly gets down to work, when reports come out almost daily about some misguided idea advanced by some misguided lawmaker in a misguided attempt to legislate his or her vision of Indiana.

In this and past years, the ideas have often been laughable: Arm college students! Fine people for singing the National Anthem poorly! Go after the Girl Scouts!

The worst of these bills don't usually make it very far. They land in the legislative garbage can, killed off by common sense. But some misguided ideas survive like weeds, regardless of the damage they threaten to inflict on the state, and no matter how bad or counterproductive or mean-spirited of a message they send.

This brings me to the drama over perhaps the worst piece of public policy the legislature has considered this century: a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Put bluntly, this amendment would put into the sacred state constitution a public endorsement of discrimination.

Now, same-sex couples are already prohibited by law from getting married in Indiana. And as wrong as that law is, slipping the measure into the more concrete constitution would be worse, and it would be contrary to the fundamental spirit behind the existence of constitutions in this country: to protect and guarantee freedom.

As questions surrounding the amendment fill the Statehouse, Republican leaders find themselves in a tricky spot. Although the measure, which must be passed by lawmakers twice before heading to voters, passed easily in 2011, there is a new reality in place. Public opinion on gay marriage has shifted quickly, leading to serious questions about the political wisdom of putting this proposed amendment on the ballot during the 2014 midterm elections.

The measure might still pass in Indiana -- I suspect it would in 2014, if not a few years later -- but the fight could spark increased turnout from young voters and others who often sit out non-presidential elections. Meanwhile, business groups are largely opposed, fearful it would hurt efforts to market Indiana to the visitors and bright minds it needs to continue to attract. Most voters, meanwhile, rank as their top concern the economy, and not who is marrying whom.

With that in mind, Indiana House Democrats this week urged the Republican majority to call a truce on social issues. The message is welcome, but let's not forget that Democrats at the Statehouse gave the gay marriage prohibition plenty of votes in past years. It's a lot easier to take a principled stand after the poll numbers shift.

But the political reality of this debate really shouldn't matter, because in a more perfect Indiana this would not be about cynical things such as poll numbers or electoral calculations.

What would it be about?

For many Hoosiers, it would be about learning to accept that not everyone is like the person you see in the mirror, and that this is a diverse state whose diversity is worth celebrating. It would be about understanding that lectures about liberty and small-government shouldn't be limited to issues of guns and taxes. It would be about a belief that everyone deserves to pursue his own happiness, and that constitutions should offer hope and not discrimination. It would be about learning from the discriminatory mistakes of history.

And it would be about something else -- something my Mom liked to talk about when I was growing up: minding your own business.

There are plenty of silly proposals offered at the Statehouse every year. This isn't one of them. This is a dangerous idea that lawmakers should assign to the trash can of history.

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