Saturday, February 17, 2007

Why Brandt Hershman Can't Be Trusted On SJR-7

During the debate on SJR-7, the principal author of SJR-7, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield), complained that he was offended by opponents of the constitutional amendment accusing him of fomenting hate and bigotry towards gay people. He also insisted claims the amendment would strike down domestic partner benefits, such as those offered by Purdue University in his own district, were untrue. Hershman told the Lafayette Journal & Courier, "I have consulted constitutional scholars and the attorney general. And these assertions are simply false." A closer examination of Hershman's record offers plenty of reasons to believe he's the one not telling the truth.

Bil Browning at Bilerico uncovered this little gem from Sen. Hershman's not so distant past--a legislative attempt by Hershman to cut off state funding to Purdue University and other state educational institutions which offered domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners. The specific text of the amendment Hershman offered to a budget bill in 2003 reads:

HB 1001-1_ Filed 04/01/2003, 16:42 Hershman
Sec. 1.5. (a) A state educational institution (as defined in IC 20-12-0.5-1 ) that provides group coverage for health care services for the state educational institution's employees shall provide coverage for only the:(1) employee;(2) individual to whom the employee is married under IC 31-11-1-1 ; and(3) employee's dependent:(A) child; and(B) stepchild;under the employee's coverage.
(b) A state educational institution that provides coverage for health care services for an individual other than the individuals described in subsection (a) is not eligible for public funding related to the group coverage.
IC 5-10-8-1.5 , as added by this act, applies to an arrangement for group
coveragefor a state educational institution's employees that is established,
entered into, issued, delivered, amended, or renewed after June 30, 2003.

Two years after Hershman offered this amendment to the budget bill, he introduced SJR 7, which included, in addition to language defining marriage as between one man and one woman, this sentence: "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." As Bilerico notes, this language in SJR-7 closely mirrors the original language proposed in the Federal Marriage amendment, which was subsequently amended to drop references to federal or state law. The pertinent provision of the amended FMA reads: "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, ["state or federal law" deleted here] shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman". Although Hershman introduced SJR-7 after the amendment to FMA, he chose the original language of FMA. Why?

The truth is Hershman didn't draft the language in SJR-7, but he and the person who had a hand in drafting it, Jim Bopp, knew exactly what they were doing when the second paragraph was included in its present form. The proponents of SJR-7 want to do more with this amendment than block same-sex marriages. Prior to this year's debate, the religious right candidly admitted SJR-7 blocked not only same-sex marriages, but also the benefits associated with civil unions. As scrutiny of the second paragraph intensified, SJR-7's proponents did an about face and dropped references to civil unions. Occasionally, though, one of them slips up and says what we should all know to be the truth about SJR-7 by this point. The American Family Association's Donald Wildmon just weeks ago included in a message advocating the passage of SJR-7 this passage:

Passage of SJR 7 will protect the importance of mothers and fathers by preserving Indiana’s marriage laws, which have always recognized that marriage is the bringing together of the two sexes for the benefit of children and society.

Allowing same-sex marriage or civil unions means the opening of a Pandora's box of social problems and moral chaos for America.

So is Hershman and Bopp to have us believe the AFA's Wildmon is lying about SJR-7? Or did Wildmon just fail to read the memo telling everyone to stop mentioning civil unions because it was undermining efforts to convince legislators the second paragraph of SJR-7 doesn't mean what it really says? Should anyone trust their constitutional rights based on assurances offered by Hershman?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always prefer that the bigots and hate-mongers with whom I deal, come at me face-on to tell me they're gonna screw me.

This senator needs a one-way ticket to reality.