News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 14, 2014

Editorial: It’s time to end divisive battle

Same-sex marriage ban would undermine values of our state

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Three years ago, as Indiana was in an uproar over a number of pressing issues, a proposal to place a same-sex marriage ban in the state’s constitution passed the legislature by an overwhelming vote with little controversy.

What a difference three years makes.

On Monday, a House committee delayed a vote on the same ban and a new companion bill designed to “explain” away serious legal flaws in the amendment’s wording. While the legislature, packed with super majorities of conservative Republicans in both chambers, may still adopt the ban and send it to Hoosier voters as a referendum in the November election, it’s not the slam dunk it used to be.

Independent polling shows a substantial shift in public attitudes toward same-sex marriage the past three years, and a number of legislators who voted for the ban in 2011, including some conservative Republicans, have changed their minds or are yet undecided on whether to move the amendment forward this year. So there’s that.

Before delaying the vote, the House committee heard more than three hours of emotional testimony from all sides of the issue. If nothing else, that testimony underscores how divisive and destructive this issue has become. Advancing to the next step — a voter referendum — will only make that worse. We hope that’s part of what undecided legislators will consider before they cast their committee votes. It’s not good enough to simply wash their hands of the matter and pass it on to voters after a nasty campaign. It’s the job of legislators to do what’s right and best for all constituents, not shrug it off for someone else to decide.

What’s right and best in this case is for the legislature to end this battle now.

Some of the voices of opposition to the same-sex marriage amendment — now known as HJR-3 — accurately point to its potential adverse effects. They say it gives the appearance that Indiana is an unwelcoming and intolerant state, and will make it more difficult for some businesses, corporations and public and private institutions to recruit the best and the brightest to jobs here.

Evidence is strong that this is true. But there is an even more compelling argument to be made against the amendment. Adopting it would enshrine discrimination in our state’s constitution against a sub-set of productive citizens. It would deny certain people their rights as Americans to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we have stated here before, this is a civil rights issue that goes to the core of what role a state should play in a free society. How this ends will send an unambiguous message to the world about what values Indiana holds dear. It will be an important barometer for our state’s future.

Lawmakers should not shrink from their responsibility. It is their job to represent the greater good on behalf of Indiana citizens. They should say no to a proposed amendment that is unjust, unfair and inhumane.