News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 18, 2013

EDITORIAL: Backing away from discrimination

Higher ed shows way in opposing marriage ban


The Tribune-Star

---- — As the simmering debate over whether Indiana should place a same-sex marriage ban into its constitution, the focus has often been on the adverse effects such a ban might have on business and industry.

Indeed, business advocacy groups such as the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and corporations such as Eli Lilly & Co. and Cummins Engine have taken a strong stance against the amendment, known as HJR-6 (House Joint Resolution 6). They say it could make it difficult to recruit and hire top talent into a state that has such a provision in its constitution.

These business leaders make a solid point. Any prohibition of legal rights that singles out a specific group of people would have a potential toxic effect on the state’s business climate.

But a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and the added stipulation in the proposed amendment that even civil unions would be prohibited, is so much more than a business issue. It is civil rights issue that goes to the very core of what role a state should play in a free society where the pursuit of happiness is a valued tenet of law.

That’s why it is so refreshing to see institutions of higher learning rising in unison to declare their opposition on the grounds that not only is HJR-6 economically unwise, it is unfair, unjust and inhumane.

Indiana State University joined the higher ed chorus this week with an official declaration of opposition to HJR-6 from faculty, staff and student governance groups. We commend their decision to take a stand.

ISU President Dan Bradley declared in a written statement that the action is in keeping with university policy, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on several factors including sexual orientation.

Said Bradley: “Our governance groups saw this as a human rights issue that not only contradicts our current policy but, if adopted, could impact the university’s ability to attract and retain faculty, staff and students.”

The groundswell of diverse voices opposed to the amendment should not be ignored by the legislature when it takes up the issue in January. If the General Assembly passes the amendment, it will be placed on the November 2014 election ballot for a statewide referendum. That, of course, would unleash an ugly, expensive and divisive campaign that could taint the state’s image no matter how it turns out.

Lawmakers have the opportunity to spare Hoosiers such a spectacle. But more importantly, in doing so they would prevent discrimination from being thrust into what should be Indiana’s most revered legal document.

Business, industry and institutions of higher learning have risen up to provide leadership on this issue in ways our political hierarchy has not. Let’s hope legislators will hear their message and at least become good followers.