Thank you for your email regarding Senate Joint Resolution 7. I appreciate your comments; however, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the marriage amendment.
The amendment does not seek to regulate private conduct, only state recognition of such conduct by virtue of preferred benefits such as tax status and related legal issues. Marriage is a legal and social construct which grants over 1100 legal rights and privileges. Marriage law has always been a matter of state law jurisdiction and the amendment simply seeks to preserve the law in its current state.
Again, thank you for writing. If I may be of further assistance to you in the future, please let me know.
Matter-of-factly, Sen. Steele says he and others who support SJR-7 are not seeking to regulate private conduct. Yet, we know the law in Indiana has never recognized same-sex marriages, a state statute specifically prohibits it and Indiana courts have upheld the constitutionality of that prohibition. As if to further rub it in the face of opponents of SJR-7, Sen. Steele boasts of the more than "1,100 legal rights and privileges" which accrue to those who are legally allowed to marry.
Sen. Steele's bigotry towards gays and lesbians is unmistakable. He is opposed to any law which would prohibit discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation. While he will not support a hate crimes law which provides for enhanced penalties against persons who commit crimes against a person because of their sexual orientation, last year he authored legislation to create a felony crime for any person who protests within 500 feet of a veteran's funeral. Sen. Steele wanted to punish extremist, religious zealots who protested at military funerals for fallen soldiers, who claimed the soldiers deserved to die because America promoted homosexuality. In authoring this legislation, Sen. Steele expressed no regrets that the religious zealots engaged in hate speech against gays and lesbians; his only objection was that they directed blame for homosexuality towards the fallen soldiers, which their families found offensive.
As if to further rub the marriage issue in the face of Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens, Sen. Steele decided he would like to be able to administer the marriage oath to couples as a state legislator. Sen. Steele told media he was surprised to learn that he couldn't administer the marriage oath at one of his own children's weddings as a state senator, and he thought that was wrong. Sen. Steele is taking care of that problem by introducing a bill, which allows state legislators, the governor and Lt. governor to solemnize marriages in Indiana. SB 19 passed the Senate by as large of a margin as SJR-7 by a 39-7 vote. And he thinks same-sex marriages debases traditional marriages? How about a marriage administered by a pompous politician?
Sen. Steele is in so many ways like the segregationist of the past who could freely speak of their bigotry towards blacks without any fear of retribution at the polls or public admonitions against such patent bigotry. Looking at his biography, I see he boasts of being a Shriner and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, the highest rank in all of Masonry. Steele is a Freemason no doubt because his father was a Freemason, and his father's father was a Freemason. In Indiana, the Ku Klux Klan drew most of its members during its heyday in the 1920s from the ranks of the Freemasons. Membership in the Freemasons in Indiana was virtually synonymous with membership in the KKK for a time. I hasten to add that today's Freemasons are not at all like their brethren from the 1920s. I freely admit members of my own family have been and are Freemason. Given the past history of the fraternal organization, you would be surprised to read their creed, which says:
Human progress is our cause,
liberty of thought our supreme wish,
freedom of conscience our mission,
and the guarantee of equal rights
to all people everywhere our ultimate goal.
Obviously, Sen. Steele has never subscribed to the Scottish Rite Creed, but that should come as no surprise because he also insists SJR-7 does not discriminate against gays and lesbians. The only thing Sen. Steele cared to share with his fellow colleagues during the debate on SJR-7 was a little friendly reminder that if they dared change a single word in the discriminatory amendment, it would reset the clock, meaning the religious right wouldn't have their favored wedge issue--igniting ant-gay sentiment--to get out the vote among their faithful numbers in the next election.
So how does someone of such shallow thinking rise to the ranks of the Indiana Senate? In Sen. Steele's case, he got his power the old fashion way--he inherited it. Yes, if you ever travelled down Bedford way you've no doubt driven on the Ruell Steele Highway--a tribute to another member of the Steele family who served for a long time in the General Assembly before Sen. Steele. There seems to be a lot of that in Indiana, which may help explain why the nativist sentiment seems to play so well here.