Friday, January 10, 2014

Lanane: Republican Leadership Can't Run From the Choice They've Made

Sen. Tim Lanane
This OpEd was originally posted on the Senate Democrats briefing room site:
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By Indiana Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson)

No matter how hard Republican leaders in the General Assembly attempt to frame their decision, they can’t run from the choice they’ve made. In moving forward with renamed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3, they have elected to launch a needless fight over locking discrimination into our state’s constitution. The course they’ve set will be divisive, it will likely end in costly litigation and will certainly distract the legislature from deliberating on other critical issues.

From the onset, this effort to codify prejudice has been an exercise in unintended consequences. Legal experts have cast significant doubt on the wording of the two-sentence amendment, questioning whether passage of HJR 3 would make partnership benefits offered by public universities and local governments to their employees unconstitutional.

In an attempt to ease those concerns, Republicans leaders will take an unprecedented approach, and in doing so, all but admit the amendment is poorly drafted. The leaders offered up a three-page bill in conjunction with the resolution, aiming to clarify the legislature’s intent when drafting the amendment. The only problem: when questioned this week, the Senate President Pro Tempore and Speaker of the House themselves did not know how the accompanying bill would impact civil unions or other partnership agreements. If the driving forces behind this approach are unsure of the legal ramifications, perhaps that’s reason enough to admit the amendment is fatally flawed?

For states that have gone before us in passing constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage and similar partnerships, there is a common thread: lawsuits. Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 and has been tied up in litigation since. A similarly-worded amendment has been winding its way through the Michigan courts for 9 years, piling up legal bills and doing nothing to address other issues.

In Indiana, there are counties where Hoosiers earn incomes equivalent to the national average in the 1970s. In Indiana, women in the workforce earn 73 cent for every dollar men make for comparable work and Hoosier children too frequently go without access to high quality early childhood education. The debate over this amendment of intolerance threatens to detract from addressing these pressing concerns.

No clean-up bills attempting to clarify legislative intent will change the fact that this is a question of whether or not the legislature should permit discrimination to be enshrined in the state’s guiding document. Republican leaders have played their hand, it’s my hope now that individual lawmakers will stand up and recognize this amendment for what it is: a misguided, distracting amendment of intolerance that is simply wrong for Indiana.

Sen. Lanane represents Indiana Senate District 25 includes the portions of Madison and Delaware counties, including the City of Muncie and the southeastern portion of the City of Anderson. For more information on Sen. Lanane, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit http://www.IN.gov/S25 .

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