Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pence Should Have Steered Clear of Marriage Debate in State of the State

Governor Pence
Governor Mike Pence has nothing to do with the passage of HJR-3.

Because it's a Constitutional Amendment, the Governor is relegated to the sidelines.  He doesn't have to sign the resolution or do anything.  If HJR-3 passes, it goes straight to the voters of Indiana with no action by the Governor.

Yet tonight, in front of a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly, there's Mike Pence, using the bully pulpit of the Governor's Office and his State of the State Address to address HJR-3 (without of course REALLY advocating for it...wink-wink).

Pence, a man who has made no bones about his religious beliefs, broke no news tonight when he said he supports so-called "traditional marriage" or the union of one man and one woman.  Here are Pence's remarks on marriage.

Now on the subject of marriage, we are in the midst of the debate over whether Indiana should join some 30 other states that have enshrined the definition of marriage in their state constitutions. Each of us has our own perspective on the matter. For my part, I believe in traditional marriage, and I have long held the view that the people, rather than unelected judges, should decide matters of such great consequence to the society. Reasonable people can differ, and there are good people on both sides of this debate. No one, on either side, deserves to be disparaged or maligned because of who they are or what they believe. 
So let’s have a debate worthy of our people with civility and respect. 
Let’s protect the rights of Hoosier employers to hire who they want and provide them with benefits that they earn. 
And let’s resolve this issue this year once and for all.
Pence is a citizen just like you and me on this issue.  His opinion gets amplifed because 49 percent of Hoosiers that went to the polls last November decided that they wanted him as their Governor.

We've seen, however, that Pence's opinion carries little weight in the Indiana General Assembly.  His legislative agenda has been taken apart, dissected, and put back together as something palatable by both houses of the state's legislature.  While he's the Governor of Indiana, he's got none of the political swagger or pull of Mitch Daniels.  Pence is a lightweight compared to Daniels.  He's a guy with a lot of power in certain ways but no real way to pass an agenda.

A smarter move would have been, in my view, to steer clear of the marriage question altogether.  Instead, I would have had a laser-like focus in my speech on jobs, improving wages, and improving Indiana's economy.  He did talk about those things.  Of course, he advocated for his other legislative agenda items.  You can read the entire speech here.

When it comes down to it all, Pence said little new about marriage.  He broke no new ground, and he essentially doesn't seem to understand that the passage of the constitutional amendment will not settle the debate.  The best way to stop the ever-famous "unelected judges" from getting HJR-3 in one of their courtrooms is to kill it now and let the current state law banning same sex marriages stand as law.  As Oklahoma found out last night, just because you slap it in the state constitution doesn't mean it's constitutional.

That's another blog post for another night.  In this case, Pence showed his hand far too much.  Politically, he would have been best served to keep his cards closer to the vest and let his previous comments stand for themselves.

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