Indiana is halfway through our amendment process, which if adopted by the voters would prevent a judge from forcing the legislature to create civil unions, (homosexual marriages by another name) and it prevents a judge from completely overturning our marriage laws to force legal recognition and endorsement of same-sex marriages, polygamy and other living arrangements.While it is true that SJR-7 doesn't change the status quo with respect to Indiana recognizing only marriages between one man and one woman pursuant to Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted more than a decade ago, the second paragraph does take away rights. Current law permits governmental bodies and public education institutions to offer domestic partner benefits to unwed, same-sex couples and some do, such as IU and Purdue. Further, the Indiana legislature would be free to provide unwed, same-sex couples inheritance rights, rights concerning health care decisions, or even to allow recognition of a civil union. SJR-7 removes an entire realm of legislative authority and would effectively strike down any domestic partner benefits offered by an existing governmental body or public education institution.
It is important to understand SJR 7 does not take away anyone’s rights. It merely preserves Indiana law as it currently exists and as it has for centuries. SJR 7 recognizes that marriage, the bringing together of the two sexes, is an institution that is important to a strong society and to future generations. It understands that mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, are neither interchangeable, nor unimportant.
The reach of the second paragraph of SJR-7 is a mean-spirited attempt to extend the discriminatory effect of the amendment. It reads, "This Constitution or any other Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." If enacted, the amendment will represent the first time in the history of the state that our state constitution has been amended to take away rights from any of our state's citizens. It has been related to me that lobbyists for Purdue and IU have been telling legislators that SJR-7 will not affect their domestic partner benefits. That is absolutely false, and employees of our state universities should be bombarding their paid lobbyists with phone calls, letters and e-mails demanding they stop this disinformation campaign. These lobbyists have apparently been co-opted by the state's extremist Christian right organizations who are advocating SJR-7's passage.
SJR-7 is scheduled to receive its first hearing this year in the Senate Judiciary Committee this Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate chambers at the State House.