Watching the Indiana General Assembly is always an interesting exercise. Some of our elected representatives are addressing issues that will clearly have enormous implications for the future health of the state: education, property tax reform, problems with the juvenile justice system. Others are using their positions to…
Watching the Indiana General Assembly is always an interesting exercise. Some of our elected representatives are addressing issues that will clearly have enormous implications for the future health of the state: education, property tax reform, problems with the juvenile justice system. Others are using their positions to disadvantage people they dislike. The current rush to enact "defense of marriage" legislation fits neatly into the latter category.
Proponents of this bill explain that they are not motivated by bigotry. No indeed. It’s just this terrible threat that Hawaii may eventually allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships with the government and receive the same tax treatment, inheritance rights, and health benefits that everyone else takes for granted. It might even happen within the next couple of years, so it is a real emergency. Ignore the fact that Indiana law already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. We certainly wouldn’t want the full faith and credit provisions of the Constitution to require Indiana to recognize same-sex couples from other states. That would destroy the institution of heterosexual marriage.
I have tried to understand why it destroys my marriage if the state recognizes the relationships of same-sex couples, and I can’t figure out why it is any skin off my decidedly heterosexual nose. To the contrary, encouraging stable, committed relationships seems likely to promote social order and personal responsibility. But I can certainly see that many people take a contrary view.
Being an opponent of same-sex marriage does not necessarily equate to homophobia. If the same folks who are promoting this legislation were simultaneously speaking out against antigay violence and job discrimination, I for one would gladly give them the benefit of the doubt. But to the best of my knowledge, they aren’t.
Among the sponsors of the "Defense of Marriage" act are some who have actively opposed every attempt to protect gay people from discrimination. Proposals to extend to gays the same civil rights enjoyed by other citizens have been overwhelmingly defeated. Woody Burton, one of the most vocal proponents of DOMA, even threatened to deny funding to Indiana University when it established a center to provide social services to gay men and lesbians.
It is tempting to shrug off the "Defense of Marriage" bill; after all, it addresses a nonexistent situation. There are no gay marriages to refuse to recognize, and there may not be for many years. It is more difficult to shrug off the hostility that is motivating it. The truth is, this legislation is not about the pros and cons of gay marriage. It is about reminding gay people that the Indiana legislature considers them a lot less than equal.