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Today, the Indiana Senate had its final vote on House Joint Resolution 3, the same-sex marriage ban. The Senate was voting on a version of the bill as amended by the lower house. A vote in favor of HJR-3 would effectively suspend the attempt to put a ban on same-sex marriage before voters on this fall’s ballot. A vote against the bill would defeat it. Either way the issue will be suspended until another legislator might propose something similar. Most senators spoke against the same sex marriage ban as a civil rights issue. One of these was local Democratic Senator Mark Stoops.
“When I first started hearing about this discussion at the state house, obviously I wasn’t a legislator at the time,” said Stoops. “But my first thought wasn’t just that ‘oh, this is going to be embarrassing for the state, it puts us in the spotlight’. It’s not the fact that we’re going to lose out on economic development because people aren’t going to want to come here. It seemed to me that the main issue with a resolution like this is basic civil rights.”
Senator Stoops went on to explain how placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution would entrench discrimination in what should be a rights document:
“I mean, we all have friends, co-workers, and family that we know are gay. Are we as legislators, and are you as senators, going to look at those friends and those co-workers and those family members and say, ‘With this vote, I am saying I’m a better person than you, I am more moral than you, and I’m more deserving of basic civil rights’? Because if you support this amendment, that’s exactly what you’re going to be saying.”
Another legislator, Democratic Senator Greg Taylor from District 33 in Central Indiana, drew parallels with prohibitions on interracial marriage.
“Nineteen sixty-seven in Indiana,” began Taylor, “I met a couple, a friend of mine’s mom and dad, the first interracial couple to be married in the state of Indiana. You want to know why? Because it was illegal. That was supposed to protect the institution of marriage.”
He then talked about how such prohibitions would have affected him personally:
“Nineteen ninety-nine, I had the opportunity on May 15, 1999 – I hope my wife remembers I said that because I remember our anniversary date – to marry my wife. She happens to be caucasian. Folks, times change. Times will always change. I love my wife to death. I don’t care what culture she has, I don’t care what race she has. Can you believe that there was a time in this state when me and my wife couldn’t be married? Now we sit here with this issue.”
Shortly after his speech to the Senate, the majority voted for the amended version of HJR-3. Despite voting for legislation to discriminate against same-sex couples, this vote makes makes it impossible to place a referendum on the 2014 ballot for voters to constitutionally entrench the same-sex ban. However, it does not preclude attempts by state legislators to attempt to enact such a ban in the future. While Indiana has been debated such discriminatory legislation, other states and the federal government have been moving to permit same sex marriage and extend the benefits of marriage to these couples. While the courts have taken the lead in striking down discriminatory laws and regulations at both levels of government, legislators have stopped trying to resist the tide in what has become the civil rights issue the age. The pressure of public opinion and organization interest in favor of expanding marriage rights is forcing governments here and abroad to either resist calls to legalize sexual discrimination or revisit such laws already passed.