Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Senate Profiles In Courage

With the protection of individual liberty so low on the priority of Indiana lawmakers these days, it is imperative we recognize those courageous legislators who see no vice in the defense of liberty, even at the risk of offending a tyrannical majority. Today, four Democratic senators who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee chose defense of liberty over defense of one's political career by casting votes against SJR-7, a mean-spirited attempt by the religious right to foment hate and bigotry against Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens and strip them of rights guaranteed under our constitution. Earning recognition for their profiles in courage are Sen. Anita Bowser (D-Michigan City), Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend), Sen. Sam Smith (D-East Chicago) and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson).

Earning their white sheet and hood and a thumbs up from former KKK Grand Wizard D.C. Stephenson looking up from his home in hell are: Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield), Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford), Sen. Teresa Lubbers (R-Indianapolis), Sen. Joe Zakas (R-Granger), Sen. Richard Bray (R-Martinsville), Sen. David Ford (R-Hartford City) and Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette). These seven legislators, many of whom I'm sad to say are attorneys, voted to write discrimination into our state constitution against an "unpopular minority" for the first time in the state's history.

A vote of 7-4 sends SJR-7 to the full Senate for consideration, where it is expected to pass by a wide margin just as it did two years ago. Although some proponents of SJR-7 claim their intent is only to prevent legal recognition of same-sex marriages, they showed their true colors when they turned back an attempt to remove the controversial second paragraph of the proposed amendment, which prohibits any legal recognition of the incidents of marriage to any unmarried couples or groups.

On the point of the second paragraph, it is unmistakable that the proponents of SJR-7 wish to take away from the legislature any power to recognize civil unions, heath care or inheritance rights for same-sex couples at some point in the future. I at least give Eric Miller credit for his candor on this point. Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana, however, is being less than honest about the purpose behind the second paragraph. At Kenn Gividen's blog, he posted the following comment:

SJR 7 does not prevent the legislature from creating civil unions, what it does do, is prevent an unelected, runaway judge from telling the legislature that it must reject 200 years of state law and centuries of common wisdom and embrace homosexual marriage. SJR 7 does not take away any rights that do not currently exist under state law. All SJR 7 does is allow the people of Indiana to decide this issue, instead of a court or an ACLU lawsuit.

Clark's assertion that SJR-7 does not prevent the legislature from creating civil unions is patently false. Any reasonable interpretation of the language could lead one to no other conclusion than it prohibits recognition of civil unions because such a law would afford same-sex couples the "incidents of marriage", even if it's not called a marriage. Unfortunately, legislators like Sen. Teresa Lubbers are accepting this misinformation about SJR-7 from the Christian right. In a response to a constituent writing to her on SJR-7, Lubbers offered this view of the second paragraph of SJR-7:
I do not believe that sexual preference should be the basis for discrimination against our fellow Hoosiers. I also do not believe that current legislators should bind the actions of any future General Assembly. In other words, it is my opinion that this resolution does not prohibit legislators from passing laws to provide new protections. Subsection B of this resolution speaks to the powers of the judiciary and not the actions of the legislature. Likewise, I do not believe, based on the testimony I heard and my personal study, that SJR-7 prohibits the establishment of domestic partner benefits by employers.
The paragraph in question reads: "This 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." Sen. Lubbers would have us to believe the legislature will have the power to recognize civil unions, domestic partner benefits or other incidents of marriage even after SJR-7 is adopted; she seems to think it only acts as a restriction on what Indiana courts can do. The plain language of the amendment does not limit its application to judicial opinions as she suggests; therefore, it must extend to the legislative and executive action as well. It is so frustrating to see lawmakers conduct the business of amending our state constitution with such reckless disregard for its consequences.

Although the mainstream media continues to ignore the hypocrisy of SJR-7's author, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield), alternative media is not. In this week's Nuvo, Laura McPhee tells Nuvo's readers about past claims by Hershman's ex-wife that he forced her to have an abortion, even driving her to the abortion clinic in Merrillville, only to file for divorce one week later. The focus of McPhee's story is the obstacle Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis) has posed in the Indiana legislature to enact meaningful, reproductive health reform laws. McPhee observes that Hershman has been a loyal soldier for Miller in the Senate. She writes:

Sen. Brandt Hershman is perhaps Sen. Miller’s staunchest cohort in the anti-abortion delegation of our state legislature. Each year, Sen. Hershman joins Miller in introducing a number of his own bills that seek to make abortions unavailable until they are illegal.

Sen. Hershman favors legislation that makes performing an abortion illegal, unless the mother’s life is at stake. The laws were a little less strict on May 30, 1997 when Sen. Hershman reportedly drove his then wife Tracy Hershman to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Merrillville and, she claims, paid for her to abort their child.

Though the couple had been married for nearly eight years, Sen. Hershman asked his wife for a divorce a week later. He has since remarried. When asked about the abortion during his campaign in 2000, Sen. Hershman told reporters: “I will not discuss my ex-wife or my personal relationships with anyone.”

If the mainstream media scrutinized the bedroom of lawmakers like Hershman who are hell-bent on sticking the government's nose in everybody else's bedroom, I can assure you we would see a lot less of these efforts to legislate the religious right's version of morality. The hypocrisy of these folks is staggering. As former Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) was fond of saying, "Keep the government off our backs and out of our bedroom."


Anonymous said...

Gary, you've missed the point...or you're trying to steer the uninformed into believing false info.

In this blog you talk about government poking the government's nose "in everybody else's bedroom," when that is NOT what SJR-7 is about!!!

SJR-7 does NOT put government in the bedroom! It reinforces family values and prevents the corruption of the unity of marriage.

If someone has an immoral lifestyle, there is no restriction placed on it by SJR-7. SJR-7 merely keeps the unity of marriage and rights, privileges, and opportunities for their proper intention.

Darn, if I didn't read this blog often, I'd think that Dennis Ryerson was running it, based on the incorrect spin the blog is putting on a just, proper, and necessary amendment.

Anonymous said...


"prevents the corruption of the unity of marriage"

The corruption seems to me is coming from heterosexual people getting divorces. If corruption is the issue, then SJR-7 should be outlawing divorce or making it more difficult to get married in the first place.

Since many people use the Bible, I would point out that Jesus even says that any divorcee who remarries is committing adultery--and that is just as immoral as some people think homosexuality is. So if corruption is the main issue then we should be stopping the main source of that corruption--divorce.

Anonymous said...

Sanctity of marriage??? Give me a break! Do you have any idea how many times I've been hit on (and even hooked with) married men?

Yeah, you people sure know about "family values and unity of marriage"

LPerdue said...

SJR-7 is about bigotry, homophobia, and ignorance, Anonymous 6:40.

Gary is absolutely right as is Dave. If the Republican senators really want to reinforce family values and prevent the corrruption of the "unity of marriage", they need to get out of their dungeons and work on the divorce rate.

Anonymous said...

Kevin & LPerdue: you can anally avenge each other and probe the anus all you want under SJR-7.

You cannot get married!

SJR-7 upholds basic human decency.

Anonymous said...

Any rump rangers heard of God's vengance? What is AIDS?

Anonymous said...

Cowards who hide behind anonymous comments are no different than men who wear white sheets to get their ignorant point across.

Anonymous said...

Gary, I got to call a lie for what it is, a LIE! When you say SJR-7 "foments hate and bigotry against Indiana's gay and lesbian citizens and strip them of rights guaranteed under our constitution" are lying!

First off, where in your copy of the Constitution are any rights guaranteed to "Indiana's gay & lesbian citizens". Funny, Gary, can't find reference in my copy of the Constitution.

Perversion is perversion. Nobody wrote about it in the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

AI, please start getting IP addresses and publish them.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to 9:29!

The Constitution does not mention anything about rights for "gay & lesbian citizens"

Anonymous said...

To see comments like anonymous at 9:22 is really disturbing to know there are people like that out there so angry and closed minded.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Well since you asked, let's see some of what it says in Article I, Section 1 (Indiana's Bill of Rights):

Section 1. WE DECLARE, That all people are created equal; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

Section 4. No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.

Section 23. The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Still no mention of specific rights for "Indiana's gay & lesbian citizens"!

Seems they do not have the special rights you mentioned in this blog originally!

There is no restriction placed by SJR-7. SJR-7 merely keeps the unity of marriage and rights, privileges, and opportunities for their proper intention.

Wilson46201 said...

Kevin and LPerdue are male and female - about 50% of all heterosexual couples indulge in anal sex. The issue isnt about butt-fucking - it's about marriage between two consenting adults. Who does what with what to whom is nobodies business!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Uuhh, anon 10:09, no talk of special rights here--only equal rights. And if you bothered to read the document, you won't find any "special rights" for heterosexuals either.

Gary R. Welsh said...

And since you mentioned "special rights", that's exactly what this amendment does. It preserves a right to marry and the incidental benefits thereof to straight couples only and specifically excludes such rights to other unmarried couples, straight or gay. This will become a part of the Indiana Bill of Rights--making it the first such exclusionary right to be written into that document. That's what I call a "special right."

Matt Briddell said...


I asked yesterday how the second paragraph of this bloody amendment would prohibit the state legislature from actually enacting domestic partner/civil union legislation (not they'd currently be inclined to...). Specifically, I focused on the word "construed", which I took to mean "legally interpreted by a judicial body".

Can you provide us specific examples, vis a vis legal rulings and/or legislative acts from this state or others that would actually show that the legislature would NOT have the ability to enact such legislation?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Matt, the legislature can pass any law it wants. A court interpreting such a law would be bound by the language of paragraph 2, which renders the law unenforcible. Similarly, the governor could issue an executive order granting domestic partner benefits to state employees, but a court would be required to render it null and void under this amendment. We're really arguing about whether the chicken or the egg came first. In the final analysis, the second paragraph makes it impossible to enforce a civil unions law or a law or order allowing domestic partner benefits for public employees.

Anonymous said...

Gary, your legal analysis could have really been used at the hearing today. Our side didn't have anyone testify who could articulate these legal points like you do. Why didn't you come and testify today?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks, anon 11:30. I wasn't asked to testify, and I didn't attend the hearing because I had to attend a court hearing in Hamilton County for one of my clients.

Doug said...

This 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.

I think that passage should be emphasised every time this amendment is discussed so that its plain meaning cannot be ignored. Sen. Lubbers contention that it doesn't bind the hands of future legislators is ridiculous. What happens if a future General Assembly passes a law that says: Same sex couples cannot be married, however if they take steps x, y, and z, a same sex couple will have equal legal rights as a heterosexual married couple.

Obviously the General Assembly can pass that law, but it will be ineffective. Courts couldn't enforce it under the new Constitutional provision.

It gets a little murkier, but Courts still probably couldn't enforce a law passed by the General Assembly conferring one or two (but not all) of the legal incidents of marriage upon same sex couples. Want to allow same sex couples to own real estate by the entireties? Can't do it, I don't think.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:23

I would like to invite you to visit the Damien Center, where I will show you our Faces of AIDS wall, whereon family and friends of those who have died can display a photograph of their loved one. You can then explain to me what 9 year old Jeffery, or a straight 64 year old Presbyterian minister, or a 32 year old young woman did to deserve a loving God's vengeance. Do you have the courage?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tracy.

That post kinda sucked the oxygen out of the room.

backtalker said...

I'm just wondering when AI and the other GLBT Repugs are going to wake up and see that the heart and soul of the party they embrace despises their very existence...?!? You've been played HARD.

Anonymous said...

...and the Democratic Party, now in charge in the House, did us a "favor" by having the Speaker flip-flop on a vote on the Amendment?

Looks like the phrase "being had" is not confined to sex, Republicans or Democrats.

Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Can I get some more SJR-7 info ...

I don't feel like it has received adequate coverage on this site.

Anonymous said...

9:22 was ON THE MONEY!!! Stop trying to pervert marriage. Marriage is an institution created by God.

Stop the evil distortions by a constitutional amendment as soon as we can!