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Indiana mayors join in opposing constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage

– A dozen Indiana mayors from both sides of the political aisle, including Fort Wayne’s Tom Henry, announced their opposition to a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions.

Often called HJR6, the resolution needs to pass the legislature in 2014 for it to go to voters in November. Leaders in the General Assembly have not yet decided whether they will take up the issue during this session, and resolution opponents are urging them not to.

Joining that chorus Tuesday were mayors from across the state.

“Each day in Fort Wayne, we’re working hard to attract and retain businesses, jobs, and families. Our city is committed to being a welcoming place for families and individuals seeking great opportunities, friendly neighborhoods and a strong sense of community,” Henry, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“We’re asking the Indiana General Assembly to focus its attention on issues that help cities across our state be more competitive in economic development and position us for future growth and success with a quality of life that is unmatched.”

Also opposing HJR6 was Angola’s Democratic Mayor Richard Hickman.

“Equality means equality for all. Equal rights means equal rights for all,” Hickman said. “To take these rights away from one group of people means we can take them away or deny them to anyone we don’t understand or agree with.”

Eleven of the mayors voiced their opposition through Freedom Indiana, an advocacy group fighting HJR6; of the 11, five are Republicans.

The office of Evansville Republican Mayor Lloyd Winnecke confirmed that he opposed HJR6.

“It is an unnecessarily divisive proposal at a time when the most critical issues of fostering economic development and creating a high quality of life in Evansville, Indiana and America require our shared focus and effort,” Winnecke wrote.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, both Republicans, pointed out that Indiana law already bans gay marriage.

“I understand that many people hold differing views on this subject, but Indiana law already defines marriage, and I don’t see the overriding government interest in adding such an amendment to our state’s constitution,” Ballard said

“I … believe in limited government,” Brainard said. “Government is not the institution that should decide who is allowed to marry. Our government needs to be focused on attracting and retaining good jobs and improving public education for future generations.”

HJR6 passed the House and Senate in 2011, with legislators at the time saying it was necessary to enshrine the ban in the state constitution to prevent state courts from overturning the law. The measure must pass again in this session to go before state voters in 2014, or the proposal dies.

“Indiana’s constitution exists in order to protect rights and freedoms, not take them away,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat.

“Our state must be welcoming and respectful of all individuals, or we will be left behind. Changing the constitution in order to deny certain protections to some Hoosier families would send the exact wrong message.”

Several Republicans said HJR6 contradicts the principle of smaller government.

“As a conservative, I feel that government should be limited, and not unduly intrude into social issues that are best left to individuals, families and faith communities,” Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said.

“As a mayor who wants to foster a welcoming, diverse and collaborative community, I believe the amendment would portray Indiana in a negative light and hinder opportunities for economic growth.”