Eli Lilly and Co. today became the latest large Indiana employer to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Tony Murphy, Lilly's senior vice president for human resources, sent a letter to House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, and other legislators saying the amendment could hinder Lilly's ability to attract employees and also paint an image of Indiana as an intolerant state.
Murphy said in the letter that Lilly, which employs nearly 16,000 people in Indiana, has offered domestic partner benefits since January 2004. He said the company is concerned that the language of the amendment could put those benefits at risk.
In addition to defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, the amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 7, states that the 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."
"As a result of this uncertainty (over what the amendment's impact might be,)" Murphy wrote, "some employees may choose to leave Indiana to work in a state where these benefits are perceived not to be threatened. Given the great lengths Lilly takes to attract and retain top talent from around the world, we oppose any legislation that might impair our ability to offer competitive employee benefits or negatively impact our recruitment and retention."
In addition, Murphy wrote, Lilly is concerned the amendment "sends an unwelcoming signal to current and future employees making Indiana appear intolerant."
During a hearing last week in the House on the proposed amendment, spokesmen for Cummins Inc. and WellPoint both testified that the amendment could hurt their efforts to recruit employees and could also jeopardize domestic-partner benefits. A third firm, Dow AgroSciences, sent a letter voicing similar concerns.
The proposed amendment passed the Indiana General Assembly in 2005, but must pass a second time before going to voters for their approval. The Senate approved the amendment earlier this year, and now it is awaiting action in the House.
Added to earlier opposition from Cummins, Dow AgroSciences and Wellpoint, Lilly's announcement clearly places all the big business players firmly in the camp opposing SJR-7. The real question is whether the position of these heavy hitters will move any of the lawmakers in the House to back off their support of SJR-7. As many as three-quarters of the members of the House may support the amendment based on their past voting record and announced position. Only one Republican, Rep. Jon Elrod (R-Indianapolis), has announced his opposition to the amendment. AI has learned that at least one House Democrat member is miffed at the proponents after being told before last week's hearing by one of their lobbyists there was no business opposition to the amendment. That is clearly not the case as we now know it.
It's now time for officials at Purdue and IU to get off their butts and do the same as these forward-looking companies have done. Officials know their employees' DP benefits are in grave danger if SJR-7 is enacted, but they are more concerned about legislative retaliation against their own budgets than doing what is right. It's time for these folks to say publicly what, up to now, they've only been willing to say in private about SJR-7.