Indiana Senate Committee to Take Up Marriage Discrimination Amendment Again Tomorrow
March 22, 2011
This special guest post comes from Rick Sutton, president of Indiana Equality Action, the leading advocacy organization working to make Indiana a more inclusive, tolerant and welcoming state.
Last Wednesday, the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee considered but did not take a vote on House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6). The Committee is expected to take up the measure again on Wednesday, March 23rd. HJR-6 is a proposed amendment to the Indiana state constitution that reads, “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.” The vague language of the second sentence threatens to disallow civil unions, prohibit public and private entities from offering domestic partner benefits, and it remains unclear of its impact on other rights for couples. HJR-6 has already passed the state House of Representatives.
The proposed amendment will appear on a statewide ballot (like Proposition 8 in California) if it is passed by the state Senate and then passed again by both legislative chambers after the 2012 elections. At last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, average Hoosiers stood with corporate giants, public safety officers and military service people, legal experts and others, in a bipartisan effort, to testify before the Indiana Senate regarding HJR-6 and its potentially-devastating effect on the lives of ordinary Hoosiers. So called "pro-family" organizations like Advance America, the Indiana Family Institute and the American Family Association of Indiana have been putting pressure on Indiana legislators to advance this harmful proposal.
Here is a brief recap of some of the testimony offered in opposition to the amendment:
- Shaun Hawkins, Chief Diversity Officer – Eli Lilly & Company: “One great mind—all it takes is one great mind to change the world…. We cannot risk losing one great mind to this legislation.”
- Dr. Deborah Anne Widiss, Associate Professor – Maurer School of Law at Indiana University: “This amendment is unnecessary, vague, and ties the hands of future legislators…. The opposition states we should leave it to the people to vote. If that is the case, the language needs to be clear so people understand the effects of this law.”
- Adam Berry, Republican labor and employment attorney: “It is not the State’s role to write religion into the Constitution.”
- Rev. Jeff Miner, Chair, Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination: “Turn our legislators into courageous leaders who care more about justice than votes.”
Other witnesses, with titles provided for identification purposes only, included Jessica Wilch (President, Indiana Equality) Jill Cook (Vice President of Human Resources, Cummins, Inc.) Dr. William Buffie (Internist, St. Francis Hospital), Kristina Kates (National Association of Social Workers, Indiana Chapter), Gil Holmes (Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana), Millicent Jacobs (a North Central High School student), Captain Ruth Morrison (Indianapolis Fire Department), Rabbi Aaron Spiegal, Mary Stumpp, Scott Spychala (American Veterans for Equal Rights) and Don Sherfick (Indiana Equality Action).
The hearing came two days after several hundred LGBT and straight allies from across the state gathered for a rally at the Indiana State House to voice opposition HJR-6. We are thankful to the Senators who attended and spoke out against this discriminatory measure as well as to all the coalition partners, including the Human Rights Campaign, that have worked to educate and mobilize their Hoosier members. Indiana Equality Action and our educational counterpart, Indiana Equality, remain committed to moving Indiana forward as a more inclusive, tolerant and welcoming state. And we call on all Hoosiers to stand with us in this fight. Polling data released today confirms that a majority of Hoosiers are opposed to an amendment that would constitutionally ban marriage equality. The polling data clearly demonstrates changing attitudes about LGBT people in Indiana. With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to take up HJR-6 again tomorrow, we need all Hoosiers to take action and send a message today to members of the committee.
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