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Economic, not social, issues should be focus

First of all, a few disclaimers: I am a Christian and a Republican. My sexual orientation is straight. I am a former public school administrator with 47 years of experience working with children and families.

I am opposed to HJR 3 (formerly HJR 6) that is now being considered for the second time in the Indiana legislature. I recommend that this effort be stopped in its tracks right now.

Here are my reasons (in no particular order):

The Constitution of Indiana should not be about prohibiting.

It should be about supporting freedom, rights and the pursuit of happiness.

The issue of prohibiting civil unions for anyone other than those with a straight sexual orientation is a civil rights issue.

Nowhere in the Indiana Constitution is there a prohibition against slavery. Nowhere in the Bible is slavery condemned.

Yet our country realized almost 150 years ago that slavery was a violation of civil rights. It’s an issue of individual freedom to pursue individual happiness as long as that pursuit does not harm anyone else.

I have worked with many gay, lesbian and transgendered parents and their children. I have also worked with many straight couples and their children after the parents divorced. I have seen much more damage done to children of divorced straight couples than I have seen with gay, lesbian or transgendered couples who are in a committed relationship and have children. We need an in-depth conversation about divorce and how easy it is to abandon a family rather than prohibit those who wish to contribute to society from living a committed life with a partner.

As a Christian, my savior, Jesus Christ, did not speak directly about homosexuality. He did, however, speak directly about divorce. If any of the stimulus for HJR 3 stems from the teachings of Jesus, then we need to look at how we “allow” divorce and how that freedom goes against the teachings of Christ.

There are many large and small businesses opposed to HJR 3. Among those are several large corporations that bring a lot of economic stimulus to Indiana. In 2014, the legislature needs to be focused on our economy and how to grow that economy – not taking away a civil right that will harm the ability of our economy to grow.

In the 1960s, the Indiana Legislature met every other year for 61 days. Irving Lebowitz was a political columnist for the now-defunct Indianapolis Times. He pointed out that some thought Indiana would be better off if the legislature met every 61 years for two days. Although I know the problems facing Indiana are great enough that the legislature rightly meets as often as it does and that our system of government provides a slow process for any legislation and that any amendment to our Constitution must go through at least a four-year process, I believe that there is enough controversy regarding whether HJR 3 should move forward to our ballot in November that the effort to place it on the ballot should be stopped and, if it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed five years from now, the discussion be taken up again.

I strongly believe that, within that five years, the Supreme Court will decide that the civil rights of those who have a sexual orientation other than straight need to be protected by at least the ability to form a civil union (if not marriage).

The only people who will benefit from the furtherance of HJR 3 are the media. If the legislature decides to place this amendment on our ballots in November, there will be tens of millions spent by supporters and opponents to try to convince us to vote one way or another.

The winners will be the newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and websites that sell the advertisements to those groups, and the losers will be the people of Indiana because of the reasons I’ve already stated and the perception of us created by the furor.

I call upon the Indiana legislature to put this issue on the very far back burner so that really important issues (the economy being the biggest) can be intensely focused upon and all Hoosiers can look forward to Indiana being a shining star that celebrates diversity and supports its constituents.

Jim Smith is a resident of North Manchester. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.