News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 14, 2013

Panel discusses same-sex marriage amendment at ISU

TERRE HAUTE — The debate about same-sex marriage continued Thursday on the Indiana State University campus at a panel discussion that featured perspectives opposing a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.

 The university hosted “Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage Ban” in the Community Conference Center at Federal Hall, an event attended by about 100 ISU students and members of the community.

The panel discussed the perspectives of a growing number of people who have publicly opposed Indiana House Joint Resolution 6, which proposes that “only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana,” and that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

Indiana already has a law that prohibits same sex marriage. House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR6) calls for an amendment to the state’s constitution. It would need to be passed by both chambers of the state legislature before being sent to the voters for a statewide referendum in November 2014.

Thursday’s event was organized by William Wilhelm, professor of business education, information and technology at the Scott College of Business, as, he said, an effort to educate students about the proposed amendment and to help them make informed decisions.

Wilhelm also said that there is current discussion at Indiana State regarding the issue. ISU President Daniel Bradley has asked for feedback from the faculty senate and the staff council, he said. “He is taking the pulse.”

The panel on Thursday included Megan Robertson, director of Freedom Indiana; Shannon Kiely-Heider, director of state government relations at Columbus-based Cummins and a member of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry; and Tom Johnson, principal investigator for ISU’s Center of the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality.

Each panelist discussed the arguments against HJR6 from three perspectives: social, economic and religious.

Heider, of Cummins, a producer of diesel engines — which employs 46,000 people globally and 8,000 employees in Indiana — discussed the business and economic case against the proposed amendment.

“When we go and look for places to expand, we look at our ability to recruit” a diverse workforce, Heider said.

“When you have amendments like the one before us, we believe this sends a message that people of all backgrounds are not welcome here in the state, and that’s counterproductive for our recruitment efforts,” she said.

The group also discussed other, none-conomic reasons.

“Part of why I’m against it and also several other Republicans is that we’re amending our state’s constitution for this,” Robertson said.

“There’s already a law in the books that says that marriage is between one man and one woman,” she said. “If there’s already a law, do we really need a constitutional amendment?”  

Meanwhile, Johnson discussed religious perspectives, particularly why various people of faith are coming out in support of defeating the proposed amendment.

It boils down to fundamental concepts of justice and compassion, Johnson said.

“So if you’re focusing on the main points, many find it hard to support things like this that seem to be restrictive of people’s rights that might create issues of unequal access to justice; that … on the face of it is not very compassionate,” he said.

Wilhelm said that the legislation’s author, Rep. Eric Turner (or a member of his staff) was invited to the forum, but the request was declined.

Still, a member of the audience asked about the arguments for supporting the proposed amendment. The panelists cited the popular religious argument that only heterosexual marriage is allowed by Christianity. Another argument also calls for letting the people just vote on the approval of the amendment.

But this is not a party issue, Robertson said.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with your political affiliation. It just has to do with your values. And I don’t think this [the amendment] is a Hoosier value,” she said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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