Marriage: Statehouse vs. steeples

Jims Porter

Jims' ugly mugHopefully by the time most of you read this, the Indiana House will have come to its senses and voted against House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR-3), the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

I’m writing this because I’m not so hopeful.

Let me begin by stating my personal belief: The term “marriage” refers to a religious institution, one that I believe has no place in a government that separates church and state.

HJR-3 not only infringes on the civil rights of same-sex couples by denying them the same rights as opposite-sex couples, but it also violates the separation of church and state by attempting to pass legislation based on religious rationale. It is a blanket violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from making any law respecting an establishment of religion.

The amendment, which was approved last Wednesday in a 9-3 vote down party lines in the House Elections and Appointment Committee, was originally assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

But when it became unclear if the Judiciary Committee had enough votes to move the resolution along, House Speaker Brian Bosma—who had previously said that he would treat it “like any other bill”—reassigned the resolution to a more favorable committee in a last-minute effort to ensure it was brought to the full House.

While same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana by statute, passing HJR-3 as a constitutional amendment would make the ban even more permanent. It would not only define marriage as being between one man and one woman, but also add that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

In other words, HJR-3 would effectively prohibit the state from authorizing or even recognizing civil unions in the future, and it would forbid employee benefits for same-sex couples.

Passing this amendment is dangerous. In addition to prohibiting private companies from providing benefits to domestic partnerships, it could lead to the repeal of local anti-discrimination laws. This makes Indiana look intolerant to outside job seekers.

That’s why a number of the state’s business leaders testified in opposition to the amendment, including Eli Lilly and Co. and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from these corporations expressed concern about their ability to recruit and retain the best employees possible if this harmful amendment were to pass.

Indiana University has also publicly opposed the measure. The university currently extends benefits to its employee’s spouses, including those in same-sex relationships. Jackie Simmons, vice-president and general counsel of Indiana University, testified at the hearing, voicing concern that the university’s same-sex beneficiaries would be denied the same rights as other couples.

Defeating HJR-3 means maintaining the best faculty and talent on all Indiana University campuses. It means ensuring that current and future students have access to a second-to-none education and are not forced to look out-of-state due to religious beliefs imposed on Indiana’s residents, businesses and universities.

HJR-3 is supported by a number of religious institutions. Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, gave testimony in support of the ban, citing “the truth about marriage according to God’s plan and laws.”

Even if traditional marriage is the only kind acceptable in God’s law, it is irrelevant to the discussion of civil rights in a secular government.

Other testimony in support of the measure argued that social-science research suggests “gender-different human parenting is necessary—culturally and biologically—for the optimum development of the child.”

This is an insulting myth that has been debunked time and time again.

Some argue that the word “marriage” has already been defined, whether by God or society, as being between one man and one woman and should not be redefined.

The word “marriage,” however, is defined and used in a number of ways: the marriage of two atoms, being married to one’s job, or the “marriage of painting and poetry,” to name a few—none of which are an offensive redefinition of the word to any Christian I know.

Ultimately, the argument against same-sex marriage can be reduced to a religious view of the institution. I respect (but respectfully disagree with) those who hold this view. I may not hold the same things sacred, but I certainly believe that all people should be afforded the right to hold whatever religious convictions they desire.

I cannot, however, begin to comprehend the rationale that an individual’s religious beliefs must be reflected in his government. How many Supreme Court cases must the First Amendment endure before we accept that church and state are to be kept separate?

As long as the religious term “marriage” exists in a secular government, it not only should, but must be offered to all citizens equally.

Perhaps anti-marriage-equality activists, like those advocating the passage of HJR-3, should redirect their focus. Rather than working against the legalization of gay marriage, why not work to remove the religious institution of marriage from government altogether?

Marry in your churches. Marry in your temples. But so long as you’re marrying in our statehouse, understand that it is not the job of our government to “maintain the sanctity” of your religious sacraments.

To contact your local representative and voice your opposition to HJR-3, visit: