A couple of days ago, right before the Indiana House voted to strip the second sentence from HJR 3, the Indianapolis Bar Association did something it almost never does: it took a public position on a contentious policy issue.
Saying the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage “stands out as inappropriate” and would likely lead to “years of litigation and significant expense for individual citizens and Indiana businesses,” the Indianapolis Bar Association today announced its formal opposition to HJR-3, the bill that would send the controversial amendment to a voter referendum.
The Bar Association took this position only after surveying its entire membership–another unusual step. (It has been some 20 years since they last did so.) Tellingly, three quarters of those surveyed favored taking a public position against HJR 3, and another twenty percent wanted to stay out of the issue. Only 5% favored the measure.
I have to believe that the willingness of the Bar Association to speak out–coming after the steady parade of businesses, mayors, and religious leaders–helped turn the tide with respect to HJR 3’s second sentence. That provision was a mess, an invitation to litigation, and many activists and bloggers had said so. But individual opinions on its legality and effects don’t carry the weight of the organized Bar, which is why their willingness to speak out was so important.
HJR 3 isn’t dead yet. At best, this latest vote to amend its language “kicks the can” down the road for another couple of years. Given the speed with which attitudes on same-sex marriage are changing, however, even that is no small matter.
Three cheers, Indianapolis Bar Association! Welcome to the good fight– and thanks for reminding all of us that “showing up” matters.