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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Indiana's date with destiny

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 3:30 PM

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Here we go...

The people of Indiana will almost certainly be given the chance to vote on whether to make the state's constitution a sign that tells some of us to Get Lost.

That's what's going down with HJR-3, the proposal that would amend Indiana's constitution to make marriage solely between a man and a woman.

That proposal has recently been amended in the state's House of Representatives to allow for civil unions, but that just makes this exercise in discrimination more transparent.

HJR-3 only exists in order to codify the belief among some - perhaps many - Hoosiers that homosexuals are citizens of another, second, class.

This notion, that some of us are more equal than others, flies in the face of America's founding document, the Declaration of Independence. Remember that? Here's a pertinent line (you can practically hum it):

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Unless, that is, you live in Indiana. And are gay.

In that case, your pursuit of Happiness could be constitutionally circumscribed to exclude the possibility of your ever being able to stand before your community and vow to love, honor and cherish someone you love.

There's been a lot of dizzy speechifying going on around the Statehouse in the last week in an effort to justify this bald-faced bigotry. It's ranged from the biblical (it's what God wants) to business practice (similar bans in other states haven't hurt their bottom lines, so don't worry about it).

In the end, what's clear is that the calculus driving HJR-3 is really political. The amendment was first hatched prior to the 2004 elections, when Republican uber-strategist Karl Rove made demonizing gays a rallying point for the base of his party. It worked - and here we are.

Which brings us to a looming referendum, which could happen this November (if the ban on civil unions is reinstated) or in 2016 (if it isn't).

At the beginning of this session it seemed there were some who hoped our state legislators would take the high road and save the state from itself, killing HJR-3 before it went to the public ballot box. No such luck.

Indiana will not be spared a date with its destiny. There will be a vote, and when it comes it will say a great deal about whether this state is capable of acknowledging its increasingly urban, culturally complex and ever-more worldly self, or whether it is bound to remain anchored to that part of the population that sees the future as our biggest threat.

I have no crystal ball. I don't know how this vote will go; I doubt anybody does. But there can be little doubt that the battle to come will be bitter, strident and often toxic. We may be about to learn more about where we live than most of us ever bargained for.

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