Saturday, May 07, 2005

Why Inequality Exists Under Our Current Laws?

If you have never read the Bill of Rights to the Indiana Constitution, you should. The rights afforded therein are clearly broader than the individual rights granted under the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. The plain textual interpretation of Indiana's Bill of Rights leaves no room for doubt that all citizens are to be treated equally, and that no special privileges or immunities may be conferred upon one class of citizens unless similar privileges or immunities are conferred upon all citizens. Furthermore, the separation of church and state is more distinctly set out in the Indiana Bill of Rights than the federal Bill of Rights. You then might ask that if Indiana's Constitution so clearly protects individuals from any form of discrimination, why does discrimination still exist in Indiana?

Indiana's Constitution is interpreted by judges, some appointed and some elected, and the laws enacted under our constitutional procedures are written by elected state legislators who make up our General Assembly. Judges and legislators bring with them their own personal prejudices while performing their constitutional duties. Sometimes they act fairly and in the spirit of our constitution; other times they act out of self-interest and personal prejudice.

You may be surprised to know that Indiana enacted its own civil rights law several years prior to the enactment of the first U.S. civil rights law in 1964. It protected all citizens from discrimination in employment based upon race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or ancestry for any employer with six or more employees. Indiana law similarly prohibits discrimination on any of these basis in housing. Prior to their enactment widespread discrimination against people on these basis were commonplace. The General Assembly has expanded the coverage of these laws over time to include age and disabilities as additional basis of discrimination. Several major cities in Indiana, including Fort Wayne, Lafayette, and Bloomington among others have enacted ordinances extending civil rights protection based upon sexual orientation. In the area of family law, courts have permitted same sex parents to adopt and have applied child support and custody laws similarly to separated same sex parents as opposite sex parents. Courts in Indiana have so far denied matrimonial rights to same sex couples, and the General Assembly has successfully completed the first step in amending the Indiana Constitution to ban same sex marriages and disallow the conferment of any of the benefits of marriage to same sex couples.

As you can see much needs to be done to end discrimination against Indiana citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Indiana Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to be free from discrimination. It is our responsibility to elect judges and representatives who respect our constitution and who enact laws which advance its fundamental principles. Unfortunately, one very well organized religious-based group in Indiana has been very successful at blocking any effort to end discrimination based upon sexual orientation in Indiana. I will tell you everything you need to know about that organization and its leader in a future post. Until the influence of that organization is reigned in by responsible citizens, discrimination will continue to flourish in Indiana.