News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 1, 2014

Opinions on same-sex marriage ban differ across Valley

TERRE HAUTE — Residents of the Wabash Valley hold varied opinions on the issue of same-sex marriage and the proposed constitutional amendment stating that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in Indiana.  

The Indiana House of Representatives approved the proposal Tuesday 57-40, after a late change that may pave the way for approval of civil unions. The measure now heads to the Indiana Senate.

But politics aside, some residents consider the issue deeply personal.

They contend that the issue of gay marriage is simply about love.

“I’m all for gay marriage,” said Angela Hall of Terre Haute. “No one person can tell another who to love, who not to love … And you can’t tell your heart, either, who to fall in love with.”

Another Terre Haute woman, Rebecca Merritt, has a similar opinion.

“I do think that gay marriage should be OK,” she said.

And she has a personal story to tell.

“I grew up with a lesbian as a mother,” Merritt said. “Her not being allowed to marry who she loved made things complicated,” particularly in business and legal matters. Health insurance, in particular, had to be separate, she said.

The couple also received frowns when out in public, Merritt said, and she was also bullied for it as a child.

“While it had its trials, seeing my mother happy was more important to me,” Merritt said of enduring the bullying. Her mother gave her tools to overcome the bullying, she said.

“It’s 2014, our children shouldn’t have to ... be bullied or beat up because of their mother’s preference or father’s preference.”

She sees the gay marriage ban as discrimination.

“This is almost as bad as racial segregation, in my opinion,” Merritt said. “We can’t judge how other people should live.”

One Terre Haute resident, however, believes that same-sex marriage may compromise religious freedom.

 “I support domestic partnership, and I also support the ban on gay marriage,” Ron Lee said. “I support to ban because I feel that marriage is a religious institution that cannot and should not be redefined by political groups.”

 “While I am for equal benefits,” he said, “I worry that state recognition of gay marriage may eventually force religious institutions and religious individuals to recognize gay marriage and, thus, compromise their beliefs and principles.”

Another man, who refused to give his name, also agrees with the proposed ban and believes that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid. He refused to explain his views further but only stated that it is what he believed.

Another woman, who did not want to be identified, thought that people shouldn’t be persecuted for their choices.

“It’s between them and God,” she said. “Just pray for them.”

Indiana law currently states that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid. The proposed House Joint Resolution 3 will put that law in the state’s constitution. Because of the last-minute change to HJR-3 before it passed the Indiana House, the soonest the measure could go before voters would be November 2016. The same measure needs to be approved in two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly then be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters, as required by Indiana's constitutional amendment process.

However, if the Senate reinstates the original language changed by the House, and the author accepts the change, the issue will be on the ballot this November.

Hall and Merritt both thought the issue is about freedom but disagreed on whether or not it should be put to a vote.

“I’m all for freedom to love who we want,” Hall said. “I don’t think there should be a vote whether it’s OK or not ... I think they should just let it be. We’re in America because we want to be free.”

“If we can’t pick who we love, then we don’t have the freedom, do we?” Hall said.

Merritt thinks it’s “We the People” who should decide.

“Us being in America, everything should be voted for,” and that’s what America is all about, she said.

For us to entrust our future and happiness to government is “ridiculous” and “unfair,” she said. “It wouldn’t be America if we didn’t have a vote. That’s what makes our country great.”

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

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