Indiana’s Marriage Discrimination Amendment – When Bias is Blatant

Conservatives in Indiana have managed to push SJR-13, which is often described as the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, through a Senate Judiciary Hearing by a vote of 6-4, and this piece of legislation does everything its nickname promises – it aims to discriminate against Indiana’s lesbian and gay citizens.

Same-sex marriage is already barred in Indiana thanks to a 1997 state level Defense of Marriage Act, something which has been upheld in Indiana’s lower courts. That’s not quite enough for the folks at Indiana’s self described “pro-family” groups though. They want their prejudices nice and cemented in the form of a constitutional amendment so as to curtail any chance of further court challenges. They say they are not driven by animus, but just to really twist the knife, the amendment will go to the extraordinary length of banning civil unions too.

Who is responsible for this most recent version of the legislation? It’s James Bopp, a man who, as well as authoring other anti-equality initiatives, has been involved with a Californian lawsuit that attempts to keep secret the identities of donors to anti-equality initiatives. It’s not hard to see why Mr. Bopp is keen on such a move, is it? He contends that this bill is necessary so that what happened in Iowa, where the Supreme Court found the state’s marriage ban to be unconstitutional, doesn’t happen in Indiana. Proponents of marriage equality disagree, pointing out that the bill is overreaching and mean spirited. From Indiana Equality:

“Passage of SJR-13 by the Indiana Senate will keep this harmful proposal in play and set the stage for a possible ballot initiative. If approved by the electorate, SJR-13 will forever write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution, affecting thousands of Hoosier families.”

The amendment will now go to the Senate floor where it is likely to pass, perhaps as soon as this coming week. There’s a Republican majority in the Indiana Senate and a version of the same-sex marriage ban has passed every year since 2004. Counterpart resolutions have been introduced in the House as House Joint Resolutions 5 and 7 (HJR5 and HJR7).

Can we hope that the slim Democratic majority will keep the initiative from passing there as in previous years? It should. The legislation has been assigned to the House Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee where it stalled last year, but pressure is mounting. Bolstered by recent victories at the ballot in Maine and, of course, California, and knowing that many Supreme Court decisions on the constitutionality of marriage bans have recently appeared to favor equal access to marriage rights for lesbian and gay partners, same-sex marriage foes want to take the issue out of the hands of the courts as quickly as possible.

Democratic House Speaker Patrick Bauer has said that amending the state’s constitution isn’t required due to the marriage ban that’s already in place. He has indicated that he would oppose the measure being brought to the floor in the House, simply because he sees it as superfluous and as a waste of time given the more pressing concerns of unemployment and the state’s financial woes.

In other news, just weeks after New Hampshire legalized equal access to marriage for same-sex couples, several groups have mobilized to begin a repeal. While it is unlikely that they will manage such a feet in the near future, on Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from gay marriage opponents.

To get the measure on the ballot would, again, be a lengthy battle, but in an attempt to expedite that process, New Hampshire residents against same-sex marriage have started a campaign ahead of this year’s congressional elections to gather what has been called “non-binding resolutions” against marriage equality, and to voice their disquiet concerning legislators who they believe did not represent the views of the people when they approved same-sex marriage last year, hoping to persuade voters to punish those legislators come Election Day.  

Meanwhile, Hawaii moved one step closer to having civil unions on Friday when the Hawaii Senate voted to approve the measure by an 18-7 vote, signaling that the Senate may have enough votes to surmount a possible veto by the Republican governor Linda Lingle who has urged the House to drop the civil unions bill although she has not yet indicated whether or not she would veto.

The civil unions bill is expected to go to the House floor as soon as this coming week, although the House has yet to make a formal commitment to voting on the measure. Supporters of the civil union bill have said that they will probably only bring the measure to the House floor if they are certain that they have a veto proof majority. This would amount to 34 of the 51 lawmakers, which is not an impossible task, but one that may be difficult.

From the Washington Post:

“It’s very close,” said Democratic Speaker of the House Calvin Say. “During an election year, this issue is so divisive that it may hurt many of our members.” 

The bill would grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights as Hawaii provides heterosexual married couples. The bill has met strong opposition however, with a rally of “traditional” marriage supporters marching last week and calling for the bill to be voted down, promising repercussions come the congressional elections if the bill were to pass.

That said, on Friday legislators made repeated references to the distinction between a marriage and a civil union, with Democratic Senator Roz Baker saying, “I see nothing in this measure that denies, hurts or harms traditional marriage. What I see is an acknowledgment that there are all kinds of families, that there are all kinds of relationships and all of those deserve to be treated equally under the law.”

Hawaii currently has a reciprocal benefits law which offers some of the rights afforded to married couples in the state to gay and lesbian partners, but does not allow access to most of the benefits and responsibilities that are automatically afforded to married couples. Click here for a summary of what the Hawaii Civil Unions Bill (HB 444) would do.

Somewhat further afield, Nepal looks set to legalize same-sex marriage within the next few months following a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that ordered all laws that discriminated against LGBTs to be scrapped.

Until 2007, Nepal criminalized homosexuality by virtue of a law on “unnatural sex acts”, but it has since seen great progress on the issue and is now busy hammering out a new constitution that, among other provisions, will make “sexual minorities” equal under the law. This includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex citizens having equal protection under the law:

“Rights for LGBTIs have been well drafted in the new constitution. They will ensure non-discrimination and separate citizenship IDs for third-gendered people,” according to Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay lawmaker speaking to the Hindustan Times.

Taking full advantage of this, Nepal would like to make itself into a desirable tourist destination for lesbian and gay couples by, among other things, offering travel packages that will include the opportunity to get married at the base of Everest. Courting the so-called “pink pound,” Nepal hopes to become the most gay friendly destination in Asia as the government pursues its desire to maximize revenue from its tourism industry.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Jeff Belmonte.


John H.
John H.6 years ago

James Bopp is a flat-out supremacist, and that's kind considering what he'd do if he had the power. People can dislike minorities all they want, but oppressing them so basically through law goes too far.

Michael C.
Michael C7 years ago

More scapegoating of minority groups, instead of actually trying to address real issues.

Lynn T.
.8 years ago

In response to John Tings comment; "Reg B, I agree with your views. You are no bigot as other viewers might said about you. God has shown us that marriage is an institution between two opposite sexes and no matter how and what others think of it isn't going to change the moral perspective of this institution."
You ARE both bigots. YOUR version or interpretation of god is all that matters. YOUR beliefs are all that matters. Anything or anyone who does not believe YOUR narrow-minded version of god is to be damned. That's the problem with the religious right, no matter what religion it is. Fundamentalists can't see beyond their own noses, and the entire world MUST conform to their little worlds. That is true BIGOTRY!

John Ting
John Ting8 years ago

Reg B, I agree with your views. You are no bigot as other viewers might said about you. God has shown us that marriage is an institution between two opposite sexes and no matter how and what others think of it isn't going to change the moral perspective of this institution.

Lynn T.
.8 years ago

Yes Wendy it is time to take out the far right. Unfortunately they have been the group that has come out of their churches droves to vote in their chosen candidates and to vote discrimination into many of the state constitutions, like where I live in Michigan. They are also the ones responsible for putting in the politicians that nominated and confirmed the nit wits on the Supreme Court who are not turning our country into a plutocracy.
More people need to get involved in politics and vote for candidates that are not anti-gay, pro-life, and pro-gun. For obvious reasons these politicians follow their own agendas and also cater to the far right in return for their votes.

Wendy B.
Wendy B8 years ago

Wow, it is REALLY time to take out the far-right trash-- It's just WRONG to say you can't marry whom you love because of some out-dated, iron-age religion. And I'm not even gay. Fundies make me sick! But then, they are all about power, not faith. Sick shits like James Bopp are why I turned my back on christianity.

Lynn T.
.8 years ago

To BMutiny TCorporationsEvil, very, very well put. Best post so far.

Vesna G.
Vesna G8 years ago

To Reg B. " But I do not know of to many heterosexuals that would not grimace at the thought of having a same sex partner themselves."

Do you realise how funny what you here wrote sounds?

Trust me, I do not know many homosexuals who would not grimace at having a different-sex partner themselves, either!

Just because some straight person cannot imagine being in a relationship with a person of the same sex, does not mean that this is how every person in the world should feel. And, nobody is going to force straight people to marry same-sex people! LOL It's simply ridiculous.... as it is ridiculous to say that homosexuals must have a different-sex partner if they wish to get married...

Marriage is about gaining rights by signing a piece of paper which says thay you formally, officially, under the law, comit to a relationship. As a return gift for your vow, the government protects your relationship.

To say that only different-sex relationships are deserving of this protection, as if somehow vows between a man and a woman were stronger than vows between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman... Well, that is ridiculous too. Check the divorce rates--and you'll see how strong those vows are.

I'm not against divorce. People make mistakes, they marry the wrong person, etc. etc. there can be a milion different reasons for a relationship to break.

But please stop exalting different-sex relationships as something inherently better or stronger than the same-sex ones

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Many "World Religions" DO condone, or tolerate, or ignore Homosexual relations, whether physical or emotional; whether between men or between women.
Also, it depends on which period in History you are talking about. There are some GODS who were homosexual or bi-sexual {Zeus, for example}; and periods when homosexual relations were EXALTED rather than put down or "merely" "condoned".
It's a mistake to be ethnocentric!
I am not prepared to do an anthropological world survey here. But, it IS true, that EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN MISSIONARIES are DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for some of the current WORLD PREJUDICE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY in previously-tolerant cultures. Ever hear of the "Missionary Position"? Sex for REPRODUCTION ONLY? Since Missionaries introduced the Modern World to many cultures, they had undue influence on them....
Islamic cultures in fact, USED to be NOTORIOUS for homosexuality {since access to women in those cultures was very difficult}. Read memoirs of 19th-century travellers, who went to Islamic cultures to be FREELY homosexual, when it was repressed in Europe....
I believe the "heterosexual grimace" you speak of, is probably LEARNED culturally-specific behavior...
Homosexual relationships have been present in every culture, in every period of history, even those that tried to repress them brutally; and they are present in animals, and in birds; therefore CAN'T be called "un-natural".
A completely free society might be to a large extent bi-sexual.

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

This is addressed to Lilli S, who said:
'The U.S. Constitution states that there shall be NO LAWS (Hello! NO LAWS) concerning religion. Marriage is a RELIGIOUS RITE, CEREMONY, MANDATE FROM GOD'.
Actually, Marriage exists among "primitive people" and, apparently some animals, who "mate for life", and if that isn't "marriage", I don't know what is.
If "Marriage" is the CEREMONY OR RITUAL, then every time ACTORS GET MARRIED in a play or a movie, they must be ACTUALLY LEGALLY MARRIED. Logically speaking. Or little kids playing "Bride and Groom" - if they go thru the RITUAL, they're REALLY MARRIED FOR LIFE.
Marriage existed long before YOUR God existed. There was probably never a time, among humans, when it DIDN'T exist. Of course, we're not Creationists here and don't believe that Mesopotamian Myth about "Adam and Eve"!
Marriage in the O.T. of the Bible, was POLYGAMY. It included the Head of the Family's sexual access to HIS WIFE'S SLAVES. Read it in the O.T.!
THAT sort of Biblical Old Testament "God-given" marriage WOULD BE FORBIDDEN BY CURRENT U.S. LAWS.
Marriage has EVOLVED, like everything else.
There is NO LOGICAL REASON to DENY marriage between adults who are homosexual.
Homosexual adults can and do form LIFE-LONG UNIONS; but they are ARBITRARILY DENIED EQUAL PROTECTION of the SAME laws that protect heterosexual unions. Case after case after case of that actually happening, sometimes tragically, can be cited.