Thursday, June 26, 2014

Judge to gay Hoosiers: You can go home again

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge John Krull
  • John Krull
Welcome home.

That's what I thought Wednesday when a federal judge struck down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage.

Judge Richard Young ruled the state law preventing gay Hoosiers from marrying violated the U.S. Constitution on both equal protection and due process grounds.

Young's ruling provoked a quick and furious reaction from opponents of same-sex marriage. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller vowed to appeal the ruling and seek a stay to keep gay couples from marrying. Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement supporting Zoeller.

And Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, called on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the issue as soon as possible and end the chaos at the state level - a curious position for a man who's leading a national campaign to have the states rewrite the U.S. Constitution because he hasn't liked some recent Supreme Court rulings.

The blustery opposition to the ruling didn't stop gay Hoosiers from sprinting to county clerks all over the state to take their vows.

It's not clear what will happen to those marriages should Zoeller gain a stay. In some ways, it doesn't matter.

This fight is all but over. The Supreme Court signaled as much last year when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, saying that denying gay Americans the right to marry violated, among other things, their Fifth Amendment rights.

If the federal government isn't allowed to violate a person's constitutional rights, then the states won't be allowed to do so, either.

The opponents of gay marriage were slow to recognize that and they fought hard to resist the tides of history.

They swam against strong currents.

The legal arguments in favor of overturning same-sex marriage bans, as Judge Young noted, are compelling. One fundamental premise of our system of government - even of our notions of what our country is and stands for - is that we all have the same rights. We all deserve to be treated equally before the law. And we all have the right to pursue happiness.

The economic arguments also were powerful. Many businesses large and small in the state came out in opposition to a gay-marriage ban in the state constitution this past session of the Indiana General Assembly. They were convinced it would prevent them from recruiting and retaining talented workers.

Persuasive as those arguments were, they likely weren't the ones that carried the day with many ordinary Hoosiers, whose views of the subject of gay marriage have gone through a sea change in recent years.

While the fight over the proposed state constitutional amendment raged, we witnessed one episode after another that demonstrated the damage this divisive struggle did to our state and its people.

We saw a gay son devastated by the oppressive stand his father, a conservative legislator, took in supporting the proposed amendment. We saw a gay man who happened to be a 20-year Air Force veteran walk out of a committee hearing with the American flag draped over his shoulders after the committee's chair had thrown him out for making a peaceful sign of disapproval. We saw, over and over again, hardworking, tax-paying, law-abiding Hoosiers who happened to be gay told by their elected representatives that they weren't fully citizens.

During the fight, I received a lot of emails, Facebook messages and letters from gay Hoosiers who considered themselves expatriates - sons and daughters who felt they had been told they weren't wanted in their home state.

Perhaps the most poignant came from a guy with whom I went to high school. His ancestors settled in Indiana before it was a state. He and his partner, who have been together for years, both are from Indiana and have done well in their careers. They had begun thinking of retiring and they wanted to come back to Indiana.

He said they couldn't do it so long as Indiana's ban was in place.

Now, though, the ban has been struck down. They can return to the place they were born, the place they still call home.

That's why I say: Welcome home.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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