The Indiana Senate has demonstrated that it will spend its limited time during this short session on those matters most important to—who, exactly?
At a time when public passions are at a boiling point over our dysfunctional tax system, when citizens are demanding that we streamline Indiana’s wasteful, overlapping government structures, the Senate has decided to take decisive action—to ban same-sex marriage.
By this point, the arguments against SJ7 are well-known. It “solves” a problem that doesn’t exit, by denying still-theoretical gay couples access to hundreds of legal rights that heterosexual citizens enjoy. Those include the right to be appointed as a guardian of an ailing or injured partner, the right to take family leave, and the right to half of the partnership’s accumulated property if the relationship dissolves. Same sex partners pay more taxes because they aren’t entitled to spousal gift and estate tax exemptions and deductions. They can’t seek damages for a partner’s wrongful death. There are hundreds more—rights enjoyed by heterosexuals married two days, but denied to gays who have been partners for 30 years.
Worse, as constitutional expert Aviva Orenstein testified, part B of this poorly-drafted Amendment is likely to hurt all unmarried couples, not just gay ones, and is an invitation to the “judicial activism” that proponents claim to detest. No one has a clue what “legal incidents of marriage” are.
SJR 7 is opposed by Indiana’s largest employers, by many clergymen and religious organizations, by university professors, by dozens of professional organizations, and in recent polls, by a majority of Indiana citizens. So what compelling justifications are offered for cluttering the Indiana constitution with this confusing and discriminatory language?
Basically, proponents say gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry because some religions teach that homosexuality is immoral. (Of course, all religions teach that rape and murder are immoral—but Indiana allows rapists and murderers to marry. Go figure.) They say marriage and sex are for procreation (although we allow sterile folks to marry). Most of all, they insist that recognizing gay unions will undermine families and the institution of marriage. (Similar claims were made about interracial marriage, and about allowing women to own property and vote.)
Let’s at least be honest. This isn’t an effort to protect families—it is an effort to privilege some families at the expense of others. SJ7 is not about religion or morality—it is about whose religion, whose morality.
This is also not about our Senators responding to some groundswell of public opinion. This is an issue rapidly losing its salience with most voters, who are understandably a lot more concerned about taxes, crime, access to health care and other bread-and-butter and quality of life issues. To the extent the Senate is responding to public pressure, it is pressure coming from a small but highly vocal constituency.
We can only hope that when SJR7 arrives in the Indiana House, our Representatives give it the priority it deserves—and bury this bad bill whose time has thankfully passed.