Thank you Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee. My name is Mark Sniderman, and I rise on behalf of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 7. The JCRC is comprised of representatives from every synagogue and membership organization in greater Indianapolis.
At root, this Jewish community opposes any Constitutional amendment that does not expand the rights of Indiana citizens. Therefore, the Indianapolis JCRC opposes Senate Joint Resolution 7.
The JCRC is unconditionally committed to supporting the core values of religious liberty; the separation of church and state; the safeguarding and advancement of civil rights; and the principle of equal protection of the law for all.
Jewish tradition teaches that each individual life is sacred and of infinite value, and therefore deserves to be treated with equal respect and dignity. We are commanded to defend equal opportunity under the law for every individual and to oppose unjustifiable discrimination in any aspect of life.
Discrimination against any group of people is an insult to Jewish values. We are committed to an American society that is just, compassionate, and fully democratic.
Yet federal and state laws grant over 1,100 benefits, privileges, responsibilities, and protections to married couples and their families. At the same time, same-sex couples are denied, for example, the right to common ownership and transfer of property; the right to file joint tax returns; the right to participate in pension and social security benefits, health insurance programs, health care decisions, and hospital visitation. Part B of the proposed Constitutional amendment would deny these bedrock rights -- these fundamental social, economic, and deeply personal benefits of marriage to those couples, who love each other as deeply as do heterosexual couples, because - and only because - some others declare this love objectionable.
This denial of rights and benefits is unjust. It is harmful. It endows rights in one group of citizens, and makes second-class citizens of another group. Part B enshrines discrimination and inequality into our state Constitution - and as it does, it violates the principle of equal protection of the law for all persons.
(Mark's testimony continues after the jump)
I want to be perfectly clear: the JCRC unconditionally affirms the right of faith communities to prescribe their own standards for recognizing religious marriage. Religious ceremony, not civil law, sanctifies marriage. Like most faith communities, the Jewish community will not surrender to the state the power to determine what relationships merit sanctification in its own tradition.
Yet this proposed amendment seeks to dictate what religions can and cannot sanctify in their houses of worship. It would steal a right that faith communities have held since the founding of this country. It would set a precedent for the state to narrow the realm of religious liberty when it wishes.
Part B would wedge the religious doctrine of some into our state Constitution, to the exclusion of others. In so doing, it would undermine the principle of separation of church and state - the very principle that ensures religious liberty for the Jewish community and for people of all faiths and beliefs.
I want to be perfectly clear: the JCRC deeply respects the sincere convictions of religious groups that believe that same-sex marriage is prohibited by passages found in their authoritative religious texts. But we do not believe that the State should impose the religious interpretations of one particular group upon all its citizens. The Indiana Constitution includes numerous provisions [Article I, Sections 2-8] that specifically describe the relationship between the state and religions, and Article I, Section 4 states it clearly:
[(Article I, Section 4 (Freedom of Religion)]: No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.
These religious liberty provisions of the Indiana Constitution are bold and manifest: the legal rights of Indiana citizens should not be dictated by religious beliefs; nor should civil laws impose restrictions upon the free exercise of religion.
As a result of our commitment to these core values, the Indianapolis JCRC opposes any Constitutional amendment that constricts the rights of the citizens of the State of Indiana, and therefore opposes Senate Joint Resolution 7;
We oppose any effort that would diminish the right or authority of any clergy or denomination to continue to make and practice their own religious requirements with respect to religious marriages;
And we oppose any effort to deny or prohibit the extension of legal benefits to same-sex couples and their families that opposite-sex couples and their families enjoy.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
-- Testimony of Mark Sniderman on behalf of the Jewish Community Relations Council regarding Senate Joint Resolution 7 to define marriage
Presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 31, 2007