Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy used a speech before the Indiana Family Institute's annual dinner at which he was bestowed an honor to express his support for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and other legal incidents of marriage for unmarried couples. The Star's Robert King writes:
Colts coach Tony Dungy said he knows some people would prefer him to steer clear of the gay marriage debate, but he used a speech Tuesday night to clearly stake out his position.
Dungy told more than 700 people at the Indiana Family Institute's banquet that he agrees with that organization's position supporting a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
"I appreciate the stance they're taking, and I embrace that stance," Dungy said.
Dungy's comments came in the final three minutes of a wide-ranging, 20-minute speech that recounted stories from the Colts' Super Bowl run, related his interest in prison ministry and described how he wondered whether his firing in Tampa was God's signal for him to leave football and enter ministry. He also talked about his efforts to make the Colts more family-friendly by encouraging players to bring their kids to practice.
Local and national gay-rights organizations had criticized Dungy for accepting the invitation to appear at the banquet. The institute, affiliated with Focus on the Family, has been one of the leading supporters of the marriage amendment.
"IFI is saying what the Lord says," Dungy said. "You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I'm on the Lord's side."
The coach said his comments shouldn't be taken as gay bashing, but rather his views on the matter as he sees them from a perspective of faith.
"We're not anti- anything else. We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote the family -- family values the Lord's way," Dungy said.
Coach Dungy may say he's not gay bashing, but the past actions of the IFI, the American Family Association and Advance America, the leading Christian right groups pushing this ban in Indiana, have repeatedly engaged in gay bashing efforts to defeat any attempts to provide equal rights for gays and lesbians. And the amendment, which goes beyond a mere ban on same-sex marriages, is nothing short of an attempt to permanently enshrine second-class status for gays and lesbians. I share Bil Browning's reaction to the Star, indicating his surprise Dungy chose to wade into the issue. "It is unfortunate that coach Dungy has chosen to align himself with the Indiana Family Institute," Browning said. "The Colts were supported this season by all of their fans -- gay and straight."
In a new development, one of Indiana's oldest and largest major employers, Cummins, has announced its opposition to SJR-7. The Star reports:
No private employers testified against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage when it was before the Senate, but that will change when discussion begins today in the House.
Cummins Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tim Solso has sent a letter to House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, encouraging him to oppose the amendment.
In his letter, Solso told Bauer that that the amendment would hurt Cummins' ability to attract the best employees.
"Anything that makes Indiana a less inclusive and less welcoming place for our current and future employees is bad for our business -- and bad for the state," Solso wrote.
The diesel-engine maker was one of the first major employers in the state to offer domestic-partner benefits. Solso told Bauer the amendment's vague language could affect his company's ability to continue to offer the benefits.
Mark Land, a spokesman for Cummins, said a human resources representative will testify against the proposed amendment before the House Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee this morning.
The Star's Bill Ruthhart also previews the House committee hearing on SJR-7 scheduled for this morning. Ruthhart devotes a substantial part of his article on the question of amending SJR-7 and whether it would result in restarting the process. As it turns out, Sen. Brandt Hershman disagrees with the legal opinions House Speaker Bauer has been offered that an amendment which struck only the second paragraph of SJR-7 would not prevent the remaining language defining marriage as between one man and one woman from going before voters in 2008. Ruthhart writes:
"There's no other way to deal with this matter except straight up," said Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, who chairs the committee. "We need to conduct a hearing, take testimony and . . . hear a diversity of viewpoints."
Pelath can expect just that in a debate over the amendment's second sentence, which opponents have said could lead to lawsuits challenging the legality of domestic-partner benefits offered by the state's public universities and other public employers.
Foes of the ban also say it could jeopardize the protections afforded unmarried women under the state's domestic violence laws.
The amendment's first sentence defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. The second states that neither the constitution nor state law can bestow "the legal incidents of marriage" to "unmarried couples or groups."
Opponents have characterized that language as vague with uncertain consequences -- and House Democrats appear to be listening.
Bauer said he's open to changing the amendment's language, but "only for the purpose of the problems with the second half, only if it's done by the committee process, and only if the people from the corporations and the universities show up and competently present their case."
Any change in the amendment's wording could stall the process.
Constitutional amendments must be passed by two separately elected legislatures before being approved by voters in a general election.
The amendment's author, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, has maintained that if any of the proposal's language is changed, the process likely would have to be delayed two years and the amendment would have to be passed by another General Assembly.
Bauer, though, has suggested that even if the amendment's second sentence is removed, the first sentence still could move on to voters if passed this session.
"Every lawyer you meet will have a different opinion on this. A few that I've met have said that if similar language, like the first part, is passed, then that similar language is still eligible (to be placed on the ballot)," Bauer said. "I think that might be the case, but we'll see."
Hershman said he's found no consistent legal opinion supporting Bauer's theory.
He said if the House tried to push only the first portion of the amendment to the ballot, opponents could immediately challenge the move with a lawsuit.
What's more, Hershman said, if the second sentence is removed, the amendment's intent would be undercut.
The second part, he said, is designed to keep judges from circumventing the definition of marriage by establishing civil unions that also carry the benefits of marriage.
"If we simply said marriage is between a man and a woman, it would not prevent courts from finding a creative way around this," Hershman said.
"It is very clear that any vote to amend this language will be a vote to kill this amendment and take it out of the hands of the voters to decide, nothing less."
Bauer has said he will let the "process run its course."
Okay, so we finally get an admission from Sen. Hershman that SJR-7 is written to deny the possibility of civil unions in Indiana. Recently, proponents have denied even this claim. If it blocks civil unions, it's fair to ask if it also blocks domestic partner benefits or any other potential benefits which are premised upon a relationship between same-sex partners. What he doesn't explain, however, is that SJR-7 is binding on future legislative enactments by the General Assembly and not just the courts as he suggests. The good news is Rep. Scott Pelath is promising a hearing open to hearing all viewpoints today. "People have very strong feelings about this, and I think the committee should take its time and fully understand the issues," Pelath said. "To the extent that people have concerns about parts of the amendment, whether it be from the business community or somewhere else, the time for them to speak up is now."