I'm a conservative. Regular readers of this column may be surprised to hear this. But, ridiculously overbroad as conservative/liberal labels often are, it appears that on the issue of marriage, I am in the conservative camp.
As a conservative, I'm pro-family. I have one of my own, as a matter of fact: 14 years of marriage, three kids. Like my fellow conservatives, I believe that the institution of marriage is a building block for communities in this great nation, and all adult taxpayers and citizens should be allowed to enter into these commitments. Legally-sanctioned marriages stabilize our community and they play a key role in medical decision-making, property division, insurance issues, child custody and inheritance.
Once, marriage between people of different religious backgrounds was discouraged. American law has rightly evolved away from those times, and we now allow adult citizens - not government - to decide on their own whether or not to enter into the life-long commitment of marriage.
As a conservative, I am for limited government intrusion into citizens' private lives. We conservatives believe that each adult individual has the right to make important moral decisions on their own. At the same time, I am mindful that people of different religious beliefs harbor different views on marriage. Just as Catholics who disapprove of divorce and re-marriage don't have to engage in that kind of behavior, people who object to other kinds of adult relationships don't have to join in, either. We conservatives definitely don't want to interfere with anyone's right to practice her faith.
As a conservative, I am suspicious of sweeping change and against recklessly re-writing the ultimate law of the land. Attempting to graft on marriage-related constitutional amendments during an election year sets a dangerous precedent. Do we really want to inject debatable definitions of morality into the documents that define our unique character as Americans and Hoosiers? Conservatives like me watch the government dollar pretty closely. I'm convinced that our lawmakers can spend their time and my money on more important tasks than lengthy and divisive efforts to rewrite the Constitutions.
We conservatives are always in favor of boosting private enterprise as a way of improving the economy. It would be good for local business if Indiana is seen as a place where young couples feel their relationships will be accepted and they can set down roots, all while bringing their talents and spending dollars to the Hoosier state.
Like many of my fellow conservatives, I am mindful of history and am careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Once, the institution of marriage was denied to couples when one was black and one was white. Once, marriage between people of different religious backgrounds was discouraged. American law has rightly evolved away from those times, and we now allow adult citizens - not government - to decide on their own whether or not to enter into the life-long commitment of marriage.
So, as a conservative, I have no problem with same-sex marriages. Like my fellow conservative David Brooks wrote in the New York Times, "The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage."
Thousands of Hoosier couples want to follow that conservative path of commitment. In fact, three couples have challenged the Indiana law that prohibits same-sex marriages and refuses to recognize those marriages if they legally occur in another state or nation. Their court arguments are based on the Indiana Constitution, which requires that state law grant equal privileges to all citizens and guarantees all Hoosiers the natural right of personal liberty.
But the best argument against Indiana's law prohibiting same-sex marriages is not found in the Constitution. The best argument comes from the everyday lives of the estimated 10,000 Hoosier same-sex couples. With that many couples out there, it is likely that you know some of them as co-workers or neighbors. If so, you know that these folks are in long-term committed relationships and share finances, expenses and property. You know that some of them protect us by serving in the military or as public safety officers. And you know that many of them raise children together. Why in the world would we want to put a discriminatory barrier on their commitment to each other?
I should make full disclosure here on two points: The Indiana Civil Liberties Union represents the three couples in the legal action, which now awaits a ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals. Next month, I am headed to the ICLU to be the organization's executive director.
And I make full disclosure on another point: I not only know some same-sex couples, I call some of them family. My sister Mary is a resident of Massachusetts. Thanks to that state's Supreme Court, she will finally be permitted to be legally married to a wonderful person with whom she has shared a home and family for many years. Her fiancee's name is Mollie, and I plan to be there for the big event in June.
After all, conservatives love a good family wedding.