Yesterday I stood with hundreds of fellow citizens outside the doors of the Indiana State House Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on HJR-3 – a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I was part of the large crowd opposing this unnecessary, anti-family proposal.
As a person of faith and as an American, I oppose HJR-3 for many reasons. Here are just a few.
- Constitutions ensure, rather than deny, certain rights and protections.
This proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit a class of citizens from eventually accessing a body of legal protections available to the general population, and would limit the ability of future legislatures and courts to provide that class of citizens with those legal protections.
- Democracies don’t vote on legal protections for minority groups. All are equal under the law.
If passed by the legislature, HJR-3 would lead to a general election vote on whether a minority group should ever have the chance to access certain legal protections that are enjoyed by the general population. In this case the minority group is gay and lesbian citizens. Which minority group will be next to have their legal protections determined by the majority’s vote?
- Marriage doesn’t need protection. People do.
Supporters of HJR-3 speak of protecting or defending marriage. Marriage is an institution that has changed dramatically over the centuries – socially, religiously, and legally. The state has authority to address only one understanding of marriage – civil marriage. Civil marriage, and the rights, responsibilities, and protections it affords, is quite popular and doing just fine. Civil marriage doesn’t need any so-called “protection.”
What does need protection is the class of citizens whose families are endangered because they cannot enjoy the rights, responsibilities, and protections of civil marriage. Let’s protect people.
- Gay and lesbian soldiers and veterans deserve legal protections.
I am applying to join the Indiana National Guard as a chaplain. I am concerned that soldiers who serve our state and nation could be denied legal protections if this constitutional amendment passes. People who offer their lives in service to others don’t deserve this kind of legal discrimination. Neither do their families.
- John 10:10 – “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
My faith informs the way I live and the way I look at public policy. How can my neighbors enjoy the abundant life that our Lord desires for all people if they are denied basic legal protections for their families? We’re talking about inheritance, health benefits, property ownership, joint bank accounts, medical decisions, and so forth. An abundant life is made much harder by legal and constitutional restrictions on a class of people.
- The Fifth Commandment – “Thou Shalt Not Kill”
In explaining the fifth commandment in his Small Catechism, Martin Luther writes that not only are we not to kill, but we are to do everything we can to improve the wellbeing of our neighbor. Limiting access to legal protections harms the wellbeing of our neighbor and is a violation of the fifth commandment.
- Micah 6:8 – “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Scripture is chock full of calls to justice – to protect the orphan and widow, to extend care to the outcast and marginalized, to welcome the outsider, to lift up the lowly, to visit the imprisoned, to feed the hungry, and so forth. HJR-3 is exclusionary and runs counter to the Scriptural call to extend care and protections for all people.
- 1 Corinthians 13:5 – “Love does not insist on its own way.”
HJR-3 insists on its own way – a narrow definition of civil marriage that would restrict legal protections and rights for a minority class of citizens. Why not have a more inclusive approach to the rights and protections of civil marriage? Even if HJR-3 is defeated, people who hold a certain “traditional” view of marriage will still be able to maintain their traditions and teachings. Even if same gender civil marriage eventually comes to the Hoosier state, “traditional” marriage will continue to be legal.
I enthusiastically endorse freedom of religion, and I respect those whose faith lead them to hold other views of marriage and sexuality. My objection here is not about those who hold a so-called “traditional” view of marriage. My objection is that HJR-3 would deny a class of citizens from one day enjoying certain legal protections and benefits.
We do not need to deny our fellow citizens access to legal protections. We do not need HJR-3.