On the opinion page of today’s Indy Star, Sheila Suess Kennedy, associate professor of law and public policy at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Indianapolis, (and one of my neighbors – she and her husband live a couple blocks away) comments on SJR-7, the amendment to ban equal marriage rights:
It isn’t just the hatefulness. It’s the hypocrisy.
By now, Indiana citizens have heard all of the justifications for SJ 7, the Indiana constitutional amendment to “defend marriage” against the assault of all those gay terrorists who just want to participate in it. And we’ve heard all of the pious assurances that the language in “part B,” (forbidding any court from interpreting any law in any way that might confer the “incidents of marriage” on unmarried couples) isn’t meant to deprive gays of health benefits or hospital visitation rights. It’s just an effort to “clarify” that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Then why have courts in other states, when construing similar language, all held otherwise? In the most recent ruling, just this month, a Michigan court stated: “The marriage amendment’s plain language prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose.”
Those who were challenging that interpretation of the Michigan amendment pointed to all the statements by Michigan legislators that the language absolutely didn’t mean what it obviously said, but the court dismissed that as political posturing and instead gave effect to the “plain language” of the amendment. Darn those activist judges!
If anyone harbors a lingering doubt about the real motives of the legislators who support SJ 7 and similar measures, I suggest they log on to the Web sites of the right-wing organizations supporting them. One such organization, the Alliance Defense Fund, has absolutely denied suggestions that Part B-type language in these amendments would interfere with the rights of universities and private employers to extend benefits to their employees’ partners. According to the ADF Web site, “Preying on these and similar fears, advocates of same-sex ‘marriage’ argue that proposed state marriage amendments will undermine the ability of government and even private entities to grant benefits to unmarried people. This false argument is being used to confuse many people . . . ”
And what did that same organization have to say about the Michigan ruling? Under the heading “Michigan Court Does the Right Thing,” they wrote “The benefits plans violated the Michigan marriage amendment, the Court of Appeals rightly reasoned, because the government plans at issue extended health insurance benefits to the same-sex partner of an employee . . . Whether the benefit is health insurance or season tickets to the U. of Michigan men’s’ water polo team, governmental units in Michigan may not condition receipt of the benefit on being in a relationship that tracks with the state statutory requirements for marriage.”
Let’s be clear about this: The people pushing for SJ 7 want to make life as difficult as possible for Indiana’s gay citizens. They know same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana, and that Indiana courts have upheld the current law. There is no reason to pass this amendment except to void those few benefits that gay couples now enjoy.
They may get SJ 7 passed, but no one who believes in equal rights should let them get away with pretending that they don’t mean what they say.