As Indiana politics returned to a more normal state, the Republican Party discovered it had lost the black vote. The party of Lincoln had monopolized this vote in the state since the Civil War. In 1924 a majority of blacks voted Democratic for the first time in history. This was twelve years before the black vote nationally switched to the Democratic Party. The defection of black voters from the Republican Party occurred in Indiana first because of the Republican Klan connection.
The old adage that "those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them" rings true as the Indiana Senate egged on by the religious right and its avowed leader Eric Miller did something not even the Klan controlled-legislature of the 1920s was able to achieve. It overwhelmingly voted by a 39-10 vote to approve a constitutional amendment which seeks to strip fundamental rights away from a disfavored group of Hoosier citizens. SJR-7, if approved by the House and by the state's voters in 2008, will amend Indiana's Bill of Rights to take away rights other citizens take for granted, such as the right to marry, or at least a recognition of consenting adults right to cohabitate as life partners, access to a spouse's health insurance benefits, inheritance rights, protection from domestic violence and equal rights with respect to health care decisions and taxation.
The breadth of the amendment is readily discernible from the plain meaning of its words. Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) implored his colleagues to understand their actions today. "I ask you how history will judge our actions today as we consider the possible drafting of constitutional discrimination," Lanane said. A disingenuous Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield), the amendment's author, insists the amendment does not discriminate. "We break no ground by reaffirming what has always been," Hershman said. "In this case, we simply are allowing the people to express their will." Hershman claims the amendment only "protect[s] the sanctity of traditional marriage from lawsuits and activist judges. Yet, the proponents offer no evidence that the mere threat of same-sex marriages has in any way contributed to the breakdown of marriage in America, as evidence by: one in four children being born out of wedlock; most marriages ending in divorce; and a majority of women choosing not to marry.
The Senate's newly-elected President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne), an attorney, cast his lot with political expediency and voted in favor of it as did all of his Republican colleagues. Only 10 lonely Democratic Senators braved a vote in defense of liberty. It is a legacy which will forever stain Long's tenure in the Indiana Senate. Did he compromise fundamental rights of some Hoosiers months earlier to win a coveted leadership position? And it shouldn't go unnoticed that Senate Democratic Leader Richard Young (D-Milltown), who is seeking his party's nomination for governor in 2008, voted for SJR-7, along with five of his Democratic colleagues. Let us honor those who bravely cast a vote in favor of our love of liberty, noting that Sen. Sam Smith (D-East Chicago), who was absent for today's vote, voted against SJR-7 in committee:
Anita Bowser (D-Michigan City) S8@in.gov
Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) S34@in.gov
John Broden (D-South Bend) S10@in.gov
Sue Errington (D-Muncie) S26@in.gov
Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis) S33@in.gov
Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) S25@in.gov
Earline Rogers (D-Gary) S3@in.gov
Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) S40@in.gov
Connie Sipes (D-New Albany) S46@in.gov
Karen Tallian (D-Portage) S4@in.gov
The amendment now proceeds to the House where House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) announced last year before the election he would allow a second vote as "the only way to prevent Republicans from fanning flames over the issue." Some in his caucus blamed his refusal three years ago when the Democrats were last in control to allow a vote on the amendment as the reason Democrats lost control of the House in the 2004 elections to the Republicans. Will Bauer stain his legacy as Long has done, or will he choose the defense of liberty over political expediency.
History will record today's action as a part of a dark era for the Indiana General Assembly when misplaced moral righteousness once again reared its ugly head. It will record the fact that every major legal organization, every major civic organization and every major business organization remained silent while a disfavored group of citizens were being stripped of their constitutional rights. It will record the fact that virtually every major religious organization in the state remained silent, even the Catholic Church, which itself was once on the receiving end of this same form of hatred and discrimination. Notably rising to the defense of the liberty of Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens were people of the Jewish faith, who understand all too well the danger of silence. Those who choose to remain silent now need to be reminded of the words of Martin Niemöller:
When the Nazis arrested the Communists,I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats,I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists,I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.