Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dear Senators: re HJR-3

I've been doing my bit to lobby the Indiana General Assembly against HJR-3, the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. For those who haven't been following the process, a constitutional amendment has to pass two separate sessions of the General Assembly in order to go before the voters for possible incorporation into the state constitution. The original version of this resolution, HJR-6, passed the General Assembly with broad bipartisan support in 2011. The political winds have shifted remarkably since then, even here, and very few Democrats now support the measure, while growing numbers of Republicans are developing qualms. Many business groups, community leaders, and clergy are opposing it. Recently, the Indiana House dropped the second of two sentences, which would have outlawed civil unions and other (undefined) statuses "substantially similar to" marriage. This means that even if HJR-3 passes the Indiana Senate, it can't go to the voters yet, unless the Senate adds the more draconian language back in and gets the House to go along.

Here's what I sent, individually, to the members of the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure committee, which will be the next body to consider HJR-3. (I excepted those who have already come out against the resolution, or who have unrelated reasons to loathe me and thus to support anything I oppose.)

You will soon vote on whether to incorporate a prohibition on gay marriage into a state constitution otherwise notable for preserving individual liberty.

There has been much talk about "letting the people vote" -- but if there were not a crucial role for legislative judgment in amending our state constitution, HJR-3 would not have to win General Assembly approval in two separate legislative sessions.

Public sentiment, in Indiana and nationwide, has changed significantly since this House held its first vote on what is now HJR-3. By making it exceptionally difficult for Indiana to adapt to the times, HJR-3 would do serious damage to our ability to attract and keep employers and investors. Moreover, even if Indiana would somehow benefit from the loss of many current and prospective gay citizens, it can scarcely afford to discourage all the bright, talented young people who would shun any state that treats their friends and family members as second-class citizens.

Nor will this amendment do what many of its proponents hope, and insulate Indiana from judicial interference in its social institutions. If, as seems likely, same-sex marriage is eventually seen in this country as comparable to (and no more controversial than) mixed-race marriage, then not even a constitutional amendment will prevent the federal judiciary from becoming involved. Moreover, our own courts will be increasingly burdened with the tangles inevitably resulting from our failure to recognize a legal status recognized by more and more other states. Ironically, the one reason any gay adult might have, under these circumstances, to relocate to Indiana would be the wish to evade the legal consequences and responsibilities of an existing same-sex marriage.

I urge you, as well, to look at the human costs, as opposed to the highly speculative, intangible and undemonstrable "benefits," of this amendment. Thousands of children growing up in loving families would be confronted with a state declaration that their parents were different, lesser, even dangerous to their society's values. Hoosiers already battling life-threatening illness would in some cases be forced to do so without their loved ones by their sides. Should they lose that battle, they would face their final hours in fear that their children might lose their surviving parent as well, due to the inability of courts to recognize that parental status.

(All these consequences, of course, would be immeasurably increased should the Senate revert to HJR-3's original and more draconian language.)

I urge you to exercise your legislative oversight and stop this ill-considered proposal before more damage is done.


Karen A. Wyle