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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Indiana Law - Some thoughts on HJR 3: The time to speak out is now

I was a law student during the civil rights movement, a young attorney during the women's rights movement, and now in my 70s feel privileged to be witnessing a revolution of gender equality.

But while barriers to same sex marriage are coming down across the nation, some of us in Indiana are determined to put in place new fortifications, ones that could take years to remove (except through the federal courts), and ones that may assure years of legal battles at the state level.

I think this General Assembly should stop HJR 3 now, before needlessly damaging our State's reputation as a welcoming, 21st century place to live and work. The optimal time to stop HJR 3 would be to never vote it out of first house committee.

I stand with Jane Henegar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, who said Monday in calling for action now, rather than a referendum in November: "It’s not right for Hoosiers to put the rights of their neighbors up to a vote."

I stand with Senior U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern, who yesterday wrote when striking down Oklahoma's constitutional prohibition: "Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions.”

I stand with those who fought against HJR 6 in 2012 and before that, SJR 7 in 2007 (where the resolution was defeated in committee, albeit in the second house).

And I stand with the majority of Indiana's citizens. I saw that the gay rights revolution really had taken hold in Indiana just a few short year ago when supporters stopped prefacing their statements with: "I'm not gay, but...". It had stopped being the struggle of the few against the many and had become an equality issue.

Still, as of now, some of our biggest Indiana business and legal leadership associations have failed to step forward.

The headline to this story by Daniel Suddeath in the New Albany News & Tribune Monday caught my eye. The headline:"State, Southern Indiana chambers of commerce mum on same-sex marriage ban."

What, I wondered, was the position of the Indiana State Bar Association, and the position of local groups, such as the Indianapolis Bar Association, on HJR 3? The ISBA and IndyBar speak out on many matters and represent many of us. What are their positions with respect to amending our Indiana Constitution's Bill of Rights to include a ban against same sex marriage, and to prohibit "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals."

I contacted the Indianapolis Bar Association at mid-day yesterday and they responded promptly. Jeff Abrams, IndyBar President: "The Association is surveying its members to provide insight into the most desirous role or position we might take. We anticipate knowing more next week."

The most recent word I have received from the ISBA is: "The Indiana State Bar Association has not taken a position on HJR-3."

But the time to speak out, and to act, is now.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 15, 2014 09:10 AM
Posted to Indiana Law