The push for an amendment to the Indiana Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman lost significant momentum Thursday in the Senate when a re-written version of the proposal was moved forward for a vote later this week.
That revision to House Joint Resolution 3, which came last month in the House, omitted a second sentence banning civil unions that was approved overwhelmingly in 2011 by both chambers of the Statehouse. If members of both the House and Senate would have approved the original language this year, HJR-3 would have been put on the November ballot and Indiana voters would have decided whether or not to ink it into the state’s defining document. That will not happen now.
IF THE SENATE approves the watered down version as expected, the matter would have to be brought up and approved by the next legislature in 2016 before it could go to voters. With growing sentiment toward the right of same-sex couples to marry, as well as numerous legal decisions recently overturning state gay marriage bans, it is unlikely that such a ban will ever become part of Indiana’s Constitution.
We’re fine with that. We feel adding such discrimination to our framework is akin to bigotry and has no place in our state.
State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, was a co-author of HJR-3 and has insisted it is not a specific ban on gay marriage, but rather a protection of traditional marriage between one man and one woman. “If marriage can mean anything and everything, it means nothing,” Wesco testified before a House Committee vote on the matter last month. “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Semantics notwithstanding, a ban is exactly what HJR-3 is about. There is a sizable constituency in Indiana that is opposed to gay marriage based on their religious beliefs. We have no problem with that. Faith is a powerful and often honorable hook to hang one’s moral hat on. Live by those morals if you choose.
BUT THAT SAME HOOK doesn’t have to be for everybody, as stipulated by our U.S. Constitution. We are granted freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to privacy and the pursuit of happiness. As long as our pursuits don’t infringe upon the rights of others, that path should be free of unnecessary obstacles, including the HJR-3s of the world.
If HJR-3 never sees the light of day again and same-sex couples everywhere are afforded marriage rights, we highly doubt those happy and successful heterosexual marriages will suddenly mean “nothing,” as Wesco suggested. People’s lives and their capacity for happiness and commitment to others — regardless of sexual orientation — are real and shouldn’t be degraded so boldly by trite soundbytes from the Statehouse floor.
The wounded version of HJR-3 will likely limp through Indiana’s Senate this week with a successful vote and be put to bed where we hope it will die. Make no mistake, this type of social intrusion throughout the nation is bleeding to death. Let’s not keep it alive in Indiana. In the meantime believe what you believe about the definition and meaning of marriage, and respect the rights of others to do the same.