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Loud and clear: Greater Fort Wayne’s legislative priorities resonate

Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s inaugural foray into legislative agenda-setting has identified the right priority: economic development. It has done so not just by offering a solid list of objectives it hopes the 2014 General Assembly will accomplish but also by addressing the marriage amendment.

Thursday morning, the successor to the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce joined a deep and diverse coalition of mayors, businesses and organizations around the state opposing HJR 6.

Do fish need bicycles? No less than Indiana needs HJR 6, a constitutional initiative whose purpose is to restate, apparently in order to defy growing national sentiment, an existing law against same-sex marriage. There is ample reason to oppose it for the affront to human dignity and liberty that it presents. But leave those arguments aside, and the potential damage to businesses, educational institutions and communities should be enough to make legislative leaders take it off the table. The marriage amendment would brand Indiana as a place where change is a vice and intolerance is a virtue, a place where promising students, valuable employees and forward-looking companies would not be welcome.

As Mark Becker, Greater Fort Wayne’s CEO, put it: “We need to be competitive on a national level and be recognized as a community that thrives on diversity, innovation and inclusion.”

The rest of GFW’s legislative wish list underscores the state’s need to put HJR 6 squarely in the rearview mirror. Every moment of time spent on the amendment during this year’s session is a moment when truly compelling legislative needs will not be addressed. Among the items on GFW’s agenda:

•A single county executive for Allen County.

•Maintaining economic development incentives for Fort Wayne and creating new ones.

•Streamlining the permitting process.

•Support for high-quality public education, making sure that Fort Wayne Community Schools and IPFW get the attention and support they deserve.

Good Hoosier men and women can disagree on the approach to and ranking of those initiatives. But the agenda serves as Exhibit A in the case against HJR 6. Rather than trying to get the government more involved in citizens’ private lives, legislators should be laser-focused on issues that influence our capacity to learn, attract business and earn a living.

Northeast Indiana’s most influential business organization has just joined the coalition of common sense.