Nix the Six: Why the Marriage Amendment is Bad for IndianaBy Brent Pierce
What does legislation look like that defies the will of the people, disregards the concerns of businesses, and ignores its fiscal impact? Well, it looks a lot like House Joint Resolution 6, the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Keep in mind that current Indiana law already bans same-sex marriage. A statute that has withstood recent court challenges and, given the Republican majorities in the Indiana House and Senate, is in no danger of being changed.
In spite of this fact, Indiana lawmakers passed HJR 6 in 2011, and if it passes again in the upcoming session it will be voted on statewide in November 2014. This potential referendum will almost certainly divide Hoosiers and make Indiana a national symbol for inequality.
Indiana, like most of the country, has shifted rapidly on the issue of same-sex marriage and the prospect of a constitutional ban. Recent polling shows Hoosiers are evenly split on same-sex marriage, but oppose the constitutional ban by a 54 percent to 38 percent margin. In addition, 55 percent of Indiana residents strongly favor civil unions — which would also be banned under HJR 6 — while 37 percent are opposed. It's clear where we stand on HJR 6. If it moves through the General Assembly next year, it does so without the consent of the people.
Thankfully, we're not alone in our opposition to HJR 6. Freedom Indiana is a coalition made up of prominent Indiana businesses and civic organizations that have joined together to defeat the amendment. Picture this: executives from Eli Lilly and Company and Cummins standing side by side with representatives from pro-marriage equality organizations such as Freedom to Marry and Indiana Equality Action. Throw in a Republican campaign manager arm in arm with dozens of local LGBT activists and you have yourself a team that's as unusual as it is inspiring.
In politics, when an alliance this extraordinary forms it's important to figure out what cause is so compelling that it turns those with ordinarily unaligned interests into formidable partners. For Freedom Indiana, the issue is HJR 6 and the goal is its demise.
For Lilly and Cummins the motivation primarily lies in what's best for Indiana businesses. To stay competitive in complex and global industries, Indiana companies must recruit and retain the best and the brightest. It's simple. As businesses compete for a younger, more mobile employee demographic that widely supports LGBT rights, it's crucial that the local political environment is not seen as intolerant or hostile to the LGBT community. If legislators pass HJR 6 next session, they do so against the wishes of key Indiana businesses at a time when our unemployment rate is a stagnant 8.4 percent.
Indiana businesses must recruit competitively, but there is also ample evidence to suggest that backing down from rigid anti-equality laws would have a much more comprehensive effect on the Indiana economy as a whole.
For instance, wedding-related spending fueled a $259 million economic boost in the first year that same-sex marriage became legal in New York City; Massachusetts also saw a $111 million impact. In addition, same-sex couples in Maine will spend $15.5 million, Maryland couples will spend $62.6 million, and $88.5 million will be spent by Washingtonians on weddings in the first three years that same-sex marriage is legal. For states, this type of economic stimulus is vital for businesses, boosts local and state tax revenues, and will create new jobs. If our elected officials move HJR 6 to a referendum, they willfully forgo the potential for a substantial economic boost.
Hoosiers are overwhelmingly against it, Indiana businesses will be harmed by it, and our state economy will miss out on much needed growth because of it. We should also not overlook the fact that this is about equality under the law. Indiana lawmakers should understand that by enshrining intolerance in our constitution, they're not only putting politics before the people, they're placing themselves on the wrong side of history.
Brent Pierce is an attorney and an adjunct college instructor teaching political science.