Thursday morning saw Indiana Republican leaders latching on to the New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending equal protections to same-sex couples. While ignoring that four of the seven New Jersey justices were appointed by a Republican governor, the State's current House majority seized on the issue as a desperately-needed election opportunity.
House Speaker Brian Bosma took the opportunity to claim, "Today is a very timely day" to address the issue of Indiana's proposed constitutional amendment, referring to the New Jersey court decision. Bosma did not address Indiana's 1997 Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage in Indiana as one man and one woman - a law never similarly passed in New Jersey.
"I guess no one should be surprised," observed Walter Botich, President of Stop The Amendment. "It is election season and politicians with their feet to the fire feel the need to divert attention away from more serious issues facing Hoosiers."
Bosma also expressed ignorance over problems with the wording of the proposed marriage amendment, disputing looming problems with inheritance rights, insurance, medical visitation rights and other benefits - claiming that other laws would not be impacted by the amendment. But leaders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-rights organizations such as Indiana Equality President Kathy Sarris expressed puzzlement over Bosma's limiting language.
"The Speaker continually refers to the amendment in terms of 'same-sex' couples," Sarris stated, "but a simple reading shows that the phrase 'same-sex' never shows up. It's the term 'unmarried couples' that the legislature chose to use. It's pretty simple to point out that unmarried couples means anybody that's not married - which in Indiana would mean mostly heterosexuals."
Robb Minich, an Indianapolis civil rights and constitutional law attorney, responded to Bosma's statements as "deliberately missing the point." Minich stated, "As a politician, Speaker Bosma wants to pigeonhole the problems with the amendment as affecting only the gay community. As an attorney, he knows that the rushed passage of the wording was a mistake and affects everyone. We've watched growing problems in neighboring states such as Ohio and Michigan as they try to cope with unintended problems growing out of their own 'marriage' amendments. Ohio's courts, for example, have been forced to strip away domestic violence protections from their unmarried heterosexual couples due to their own 2004 amendment - and I know that the Speaker is aware of this because we've given him the case law directly."
In possible acknowledgment to growing public discontent with problems in the proposed amendment, Bosma this week added to his campaign speeches a warning that altering the amendment would increase the timetable for ultimate passage. Stop The Amendment President Botich responded, "Bosma's 'stick your head in the sand' approach to pushing this measure through 'as-is' is ludicrous. Passing this amendment as it is written now is going to get Indiana into a world of hurt. In the crafting of law, words do matter."
"This amendment hurts every Hoosier no matter their orientation or political leanings," Minich declared. "Attorneys from various areas of law have researched the matter exhaustively. I have a stack of printed materials that's two feet tall," quipped Minich grimly, "and there are days that I daydream about lighting a match to it all hoping that all these problems disappear in a puff of smoke. Unfortunately I'm not a magician; and unless Bosma can conjure us out of the mess he's trying to get Indiana into, he'd better work on fixing the wording of that amendment."