News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 18, 2014

ACLU: Gay marriage ban may not reappear

Speaker part of Human Rights Day at ISU

TERRE HAUTE — Hoosier attitudes are changing so much and so fast that a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana may never appear on the ballot, say representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

State legislators don’t want to deal with the controversial issue, which dominated much of the 2014 General Assembly, said Katie Blair, director of advocacy for ACLU of Indiana. “Nobody wants to see this again.”

She and Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director, spoke during the annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day events at Indiana State University on Wednesday. Their topic was, “The Battle over Marriage: What Does it Say about Indiana?”

In an interview, Henegar said the Freedom Indiana campaign to defeat House Joint Resolution 3 “achieved more than anyone thought possible. The General Assembly quite honestly was blindsided by the grass roots support. They never imagined people in Indiana cared this much about the rights of their LGBT neighbors, friends and co-workers.”

Freedom Indiana is a statewide coalition of businesses, faith leaders, civil rights and community organizations and individuals formed to defeat HJR-3. ACLU of Indiana is a partner.

Freedom Indiana stated the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage duplicated existing law and would permanently ban all protections for same-sex couples and their families.

Blair further stated that even if the issue resurfaces, the earliest HJR-3 could be on the ballot would be November 2016, which is both a presidential election and an election for Indiana’s governor.

Should Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, seek re-election, “I don’t think they want a big groundswell of people who think that LGBT rights are important,” Blair said. The issue would draw many younger, more liberal thinking individuals to the polls, Blair suggested.

Two separately elected legislatures must approve constitutional amendments with identical language before they can go to voters, and the amendment approved this year now differs from the one passed in 2011 because it does not include a ban on civil unions.

Consequently, the General Assembly would have to approve the revised ban again in 2015 or 2016 before a public referendum could be held in November 2016.

According to Henegar, ACLU believes the purpose of a constitution is to define and protect rights. The proposed amendment to ban same sex marriage limits rights and excludes people, something “incredibly inappropriate for a constitution,” she said.

In addition, the proposed amendment is discriminatory, hurtful and hateful, she said.

ACLU also believes it’s inappropriate for a majority “to decide, basically with a show of hands, on the rights of their neighbors. That’s not how we define rights” in the United States, she said.

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights  protect the rights of the minority, which is important, because “any one of us could be in the minority at any time,” Henegar said.

She also discussed a federal lawsuit ACLU of Indiana filed last week on behalf of 15 plaintiffs challenging Indiana’s statute that does not allow same-sex marriage as well as the state’s refusal to recognize gay unions legally performed in other states.

Similar cases have been filed across the country. The goal is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decide once and for whether same-sex couples have the right to marry on an equal footing with couples in traditional marriages between a man and woman, she said.

Across the country, people’s attitudes are changing because “we are telling the stories,” Henegar said. Same-sex couples who have been living “under the radar” because their relationships have not been fully accepted have been encouraged to tell neighbors, friends and families their stories.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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