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True threat to liberty of Hoosiers

“The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

– Article 1, section 23,

Indiana Constitution

“Liberty” and “freedom” are highly prized by tea party activists promoting fiscal and social conservatism. They work as well for the broad coalition formed to defeat a proposed ban on gay marriage.

Coalition members recognize that writing restrictions of individual rights into the Indiana Constitution is contrary to founders’ intentions. Freedom Indiana rightly acknowledges that a statewide referendum aimed at amending the constitution threatens the guarantee for rights to be enjoyed equally by all.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal prohibition on benefits for legally married gay couples, but left it to individual states to define marriage. Indiana law already defines marriage as between a man and woman; the amendment is unnecessary. House Joint Resolution 6 proponents argue it is needed to protect the sanctity of marriage.

The legislative odds are poor for opponents of the amendment. Gov. Mike Pence supports it. After the court ruling, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, pledged to take up the measure quickly in January.

Freedom Indiana kicked off its campaign last week in hopes of blocking the second vote the resolution requires to be placed on the ballot. Organizers have the support of two of Indiana’s highest profile corporations, Eli Lilly and Co. and Cummins Inc.

The campaign also has northeast Indiana supporters, including Roger and Rachel McNett of New Haven, who have been married for 46 years.

“Passing HJR-6 would be a mistake for Indiana that our children will look back upon in 10 years and just shake their heads,” said Roger McNett. “We understand that marriage is sanctioned by the state and it gives enormous benefits to people who marry each other. We do not understand how same-gender couples who love and care for each other should not have the same benefits as the rest of us do. … The thought of discrimination written into our state constitution truly saddens us.”

Rebecca Reeder, a retired teacher who coordinates the local We the People civic education program, questions the validity of the amendment.

“Constitutions are frameworks for government,” she said. “They are designed to limit and define the powers of government, not to limit or take away rights of particular groups of people. Regardless of their opinions about same-gender marriage, Hoosiers should be genuinely concerned about this misuse of a constitutional amendment.”

Religious concerns also factor into the campaign. Congregation Achduth Vesholom was one of the organizers of a “Faith and Politics” program examining the effects of the proposed amendment. Rabbi Javier Cattapan said all area lawmakers were invited; none responded.

“As a congregation, we support equality for every citizen. We welcome (the campaign) as a positive move to bring the citizens information, to educate them about what they are really doing,” Cattapan said. “We will oppose it from a religious point of view.”

If Indiana lawmakers insist on placing the constitutional amendment before voters, look for Freedom Indiana to make it clear exactly who is jeopardizing Hoosiers’ liberty and freedom.