The Indiana State Legislature will soon decide whether to send House Joint Resolution 6 to public referendum in November 2014 to possibly amend the Indiana State Constitution. The amendment reads only marriage between (1) man and one (1) woman will be valid or recognized in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized. I do not disparage the beliefs of anyone on either side of this issue. However, is it a good idea to bring this to public referendum to amend the constitution?
Indiana already has a law stating only a man can marry a woman and only a woman can marry a man. The amendment would change nothing now. The amendment would prohibit future legislatures from changing the law if citizens want it changed. It also would prohibit some possible future compromise on civil unions that would be satisfactory to citizens on both sides of the issue. Public opinion has been changing on this issue, particularly among young people. Issues where public opinion can evolve should be in the province of the legislature to debate and possibly change law, not set in stone in the constitution.
Eli Lilly and Cummins Engine oppose the amendment because they believe it will adversely affect their ability to recruit new employees. The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce – with 3,000 businesses – opposes HJR6 because it believes it is bad for business. Young professionals with job opportunities in multiple states might rule out Indiana because of this. College students might choose to study elsewhere, making it less likely they will locate in Indiana on graduation. Current citizens might choose to leave Indiana if HJR6 passes. We need to be a state that welcomes all to attract the next generation of talent we need to fill the high-paying jobs of the future.
It is tempting to let the people decide, but even putting the issue on the ballot at public referendum has downsides. This highly charged social issue will ignite an inflammatory multimillion dollar aerial ad war that will make the dogfights over London in World War II seem tame. The campaigns will likely degenerate into insinuations that some who support the amendment are bigots and some who oppose it are immoral. National attention will focus on Indiana and portray it in a bad light. State and local government have many more important issues they must concentrate on now, such as the economy, public safety, infrastructure and education.
Ultimately, I believe public opinion is changing in Indiana, and the amendment would be defeated at referendum. Therefore, that would not accomplish anything. Even if the amendment passes, little would change now in present law or behavior, so nothing is won. I do not believe the fight is worth it if it causes us to lose even one young professional we need for our economy. I do not believe the fight is worth having if it engenders bitterness and makes even one person feel unwelcome in Indiana. A fight not worth winning is a fight not worth having. I believe it would be better policy to declare a legislative truce on this issue, and the legislature should decide not to put the amendment on the ballot.