In support of HJR-3…

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The 2014 Indiana Legislative session was dominated by one issue: Gay Marriage. The battle took place between two vehemently opposed, but well-intentioned, factions struggling to reconcile two seemingly very different arguments. Perhaps three. At the core of the argument was a faction that fought, admirably, to protect the fundamental institution of marriage. A centuries old institution based on the single premise that marriage consisted solely as between man and woman. On the other side of the argument were civil rights advocates arguing for the protection of freedoms for same-sex couples and the benefits to which they may be entitled. Indeed, there was a probably a third faction – the great majority of Indiana constituents that wanted the right to vote on how Indiana would define the institution of marriage.

Unquestionably, the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (commonly referred to as DOMA), fundamentally changed the landscape of this issue since the language of Indiana’s gay marriage amendment was drafted before the opinion was issued.

In striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court held that the Act “imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.”

However, the Court continued that it “does not have before it, and the logic of its opinion does not decide, the distinct question whether the States, in the exercise of their historic and essential authority to define the marital relation, may continue to utilize the traditional definition of marriage.”

Therefore, this state was at a crossroads during its legislative session as legislators were faced with the difficult decision regarding whether or not the voters should be provided with the language of a referendum that was created before the landmark decision regarding DOMA – a decision that clearly delineated a line of demarcation between a state’s right to define marriage, and the rest of our nations’ rights to acknowledge those states’ right. The language proposed reads as follows:

“Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.

A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

What we have seen since the DOMA opinion are a slew of States and Federal Courts that have struck down similarly worded laws in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion. Unquestionably, had our legislature maintained the original language of the amendment, it would have been the subject of constitutional challenge.

However, in an era of smartphones and SportsCenter highlights, this simple argument was lost in favor of the intense desire to immediately resolve an irreconcilable argument during the 2014 legislative session. Indeed, a vote to maintain the entirety of the original language of the amendment may have satiated the intense desires of pro-family advocates, and placated those desiring to weigh in during the 2014 general election; however, that momentary euphoria would have been lost when the problematic language became subject to constitutional scrutiny – which is exactly what happened in Kentucky in the very wake of the vote on Indiana’s HJR-3.

Most certainly the constituents of the 84th District have expressed a desire to vote on the issue. However, they also express an intense desire to keep activist judges from preventing their right to define marriage in the state of Indiana. As someone who believes that marriage is between man and woman, and who also understands and appreciates the constitution – and our requirement to abide by the United States Supreme Court, the issue is clear. The 2014 legislature did the heavy lifting by providing language for constituents that best avoids judicial activism and allows Indiana voters the right to define marriage – as still preserved by the US Supreme Court. Sometimes the tough decisions require taking the tougher road. In this instance, it involves making sure that the voters have the opportunity to define marriage without judicial activism…even if that means waiting a bit longer.

If I have the privilege of being State Representative of the 84th District, I am committed to supporting HJR-3 (or whatever number it may be assigned).

-Michael Barranda