For the second time since 2005, the Indiana House has passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The measure that would amend the state's founding document was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday on a vote of 70-26. This hardly comes as a surprise. I wish it did. Hate abounds in my home state where the lynching of an African-American, the last in the 20th century happened in Marion and where teenagers bullied a classmate to death with gay taunts and rants while educators insisted they knew nothing about it less than a year ago. Leave it to Indiana to keep up with hate legislation.
It comes as no surprise to this journalist that the bills sponsor is from Marion. If it wasn't true, it would be laughable. "The basic unit of society is the family, and the cornerstone of the family is marriage," said the resolution's author, Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion. "Marriage is and should be between one man and one woman." And from the divorce rate, it's hard to argue that straights are the experts on marriage. A mostly rural county in eastern Indiana tops the nation in the percentage of people who are divorced, but just why that's so — the economy? an exodus of never-marrieds? a statistical anomaly?
More than 19 percent of Wayne County residents over age 15 are divorced, according to 2008 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. That's the highest percentage for any county with a population over 65,000 in the nation, and two other Indiana counties — Floyd and Madison — also made the top 10. But Hoosier lawmakers, bending to pressure in the Bible Belt, hardly have time for facts. Every Republican but one -- Ed Clere, R-New Albany -- voted for the ban; 11 Democrats also voted for it. The measure now goes to the Senate. A constitutional amendment must be approved by two separately elected legislatures and then by voters. It would be at least three years before the constitution could be changed.
This bill write hate and discrimination into the Indiana Constitution. They probably danced on tables in the Klan Capital of Martinsville upon hearing the news. "One of the most important things a state or federal constitution does, what it's supposed to do, is protect the minority . . . from the tyranny of the majority," Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, told lawmakers. I agree that legislating morality based on the insane fear of the majority is stupid. While not the main reason for my leaving Indiana some years ago, it definitely played a part in my decision. I have no desire to be a second class citizen in what legislators are creating as a third class state.
What makes this ban even nastier is that it would prohibit not only marriage between two people of the same sex but also anything "substantially similar" to marriage, meaning the legislature's hands would be tied should it ever want to allow civil unions. About 30 states have constitutional gay-marriage bans, of which about 20 are as strict as Indiana proposes. Turner said a constitutional ban would prevent a situation like that in Iowa, where in 2009 the state Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
In a letter to lawmakers, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he supports the resolution and committed to defending a constitutional ban against legal threats. But others, such as the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, worry that the resolution will cast the state as intolerant and put off talented workers who might otherwise relocate to Indianapolis. They have reason to worry. I have suspected that this intolerance has led, in part, to the state's brain drain for many years.
Hate abounds in my home state where the lynching of an African-American, the last in the 20th century happened in Marion and where teenagers bullied a classmate to death with gay taunts and rants while educators insisted they knew nothing about it less than a year ago.
"Our view is that Indianapolis has got to position itself to compete globally for human capital, and that we have got to be the kind of place that is open and welcome and tolerant," said President and CEO Roland Dorson. Good luck with that. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association called the vote "a huge victory for the pro-family movement, especially when it passes by those margins." Indiana Equality Action expressed disappointment and called the resolution a distraction from economic issues. I guess since Indiana has it's economic house in order, it's time to take on the gays.
Also disappointed was Indianapolis resident Paul Fischer, who celebrated his commitment to Dannie Chandler in 1993 at a local church. In 2008, their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren traveled with them to California for a state-sanctioned wedding; that marriage is recognized in a few other states. "We're hoping that someday it will be recognized in Indiana," Fischer said. "We wanted to be able to show a true commitment to each other. To not have that right that the straight people have, it makes our relationship seem second-class."
Indeed, some say such legislation empowers school bullies who prey on gay youths. Many supporters say that the measure is not intended as an attack on anybody. Really? That's how you see it? Honestly? You are looking at life through the prism of straightness which is a far cry from reality whether you like it or not. Remember me mentioning Martinsville in a previous thread. Martinsville, the capital of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. Martinsville, the home of racial intolerance and prejudice? This will probably not come as a surprise: "Nothing, nothing in this legislation in this resolution interferes with (the ability of ) people to live with whomever they choose, to love whomever they choose," Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, told lawmakers Tuesday. "But loving friendship is a different relationship than the relationship between man and wife, and we should represent that in the law."
There are practical differences between being married and not. A 2004 study by the Government Accountability Office found more than 1,000 federal laws in which marriage is a factor in determining rights, benefits and privileges. Other supporters encouraged lawmakers to advance the measure in order to trigger a referendum and let Indiana voters decide whether they want their constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Pierce reminded House members that the majority of Americans once frowned upon marriage between people of different races or religions. "Which side of history," he asked, "will we stand on?" With Indiana's history on racial relations not that distant in it's past, I am afraid this conclusion is all but obvious.
The Senate approved a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010. The entire legislature approved a constitutional amendment once, in 2005, when the GOP also controlled the House. So, my friends, there you have it. Bigotry and hatred win out, once again in a place than can hardly afford it. This does nothing but reinforce the stereotypes that Hoosiers have fought for years to overcome...somehow...I want to think the people of Indiana truly care...only time will tell.