All across the country, politicians will be getting back to business next week: at the White House, in the U.S. Congress, and in state and local governments. This morning, I want to focus on one particular state.
Like many other states, Indiana has a full plate for the 2014 legislative agenda, including pre-school education, funding for roads, and tax policy. But it is the issue of marriage equality that has Indiana in the national spotlight.
In the coming weeks, the Republican-controlled state legislature could vote to put a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on the November ballot. But one person in particular has the power and influence to help keep that from happening.
And that’s why my letter this week is to Indiana’s Republican House Speaker.
Dear Speaker Brian Bosma,
It’s me, Melissa.
I know you’re facing a busy legislative agenda, and you’ve even admitted that the issue of marriage equality is not high on that agenda. But no matter where you stand on the issue personally–take a moment to consider Indiana’s place in history.
In 2011, state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the proposed constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. And now, a second vote is required before it can be considered by Indiana voters. But before you allow that vote to go forward–remember that the national landscape has changed since 2011.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 18 states, including in Utah. Voters there passed a state constitutional amendment in 2004 banning same sex marriage–only to have it struck down by a federal judge last month.
So why the need for a constitutional amendment?
Indiana already has a state statute barring same-sex couples from marrying. And the language in the proposed amendment is potentially troubling because it states ”a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”
So, opponents of the amendment point out that the language could close the door to even civil unions. And many of your constituents appear hesitant.
A recent poll showed that a majority of Indiana voters oppose amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage–and 11 Indiana mayors (six Democrats and five Republicans*) serving some of the state’s biggest cities have announced their opposition to the proposed amendment.
So, Speaker Bosma, you and your counterpart in the state Senate face a real test of leadership. You have already admirably called for any movement on this proposal to be done with respect and civility, and for Hoosiers to work through it together.
So I hope you do, and I hope you listen to your constituents and urge your colleagues to shelve a measure that many feel is neither civil nor respectful.
*In the letter as read on air, the total was misstated as “six Republicans and five Democrats.” We regret the error.