Fifty-six law professors at three Indiana law schools (IU Bloomington and Indianapolis, and Valparaiso) have signed a letter to the Indiana General Assembly deeply critical of SJR7, the proposed "Marriage Protection Amendment" to the Indiana Constitution. You can read it in its entirety here.
Yesterday at a rally at the Statehouse, Indiana State Senator Tim Lannane (D-Bloomington) read parts of the letter, which expresses widespread concern over putting what the professors "a poorly drafted, ill-conceived proposal" into the Indiana Constitution. Senator Lannane concluded that what the learned professors had to say about the amendment was certainly good enough for "this country lawyer."
Advocates of the proposed amendment, which is closely patterned after a similar text in the original version of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) have continued to dismiss criticism of the language of SJR7 as a "smokescreen", claiming that their own right-wing "legal experts" (generally out-of-state "marriage think tanks") have pronounced it to be beyond reproach.
At a recent Indiana Senate Judiciary Commitee hearing on the measure, one of those out-of-state lawyers, Chris Stovall of the Alliance Defense Fund in Arizona, told lawmakers that if they started to worry about what every word in a proposed constitutional amendment meant, nothing would ever get done. Yes, Chris, and why you and your colleagues think lawmakers ought not to carefully consider every word speaks volumes concerning the real agenda of the sponsors.
We all need to thank those professors, and especially Professor Aviva Orenstein at the Indiana University Law School in Bloomington, who played an indespensible role in the drafting and circulation of the letter. (She also gave highly credible and convincing testimony to both the Senate and House committees considering the measure).
There's been a mild argument between me and others on this site as to whether or not SJR7 is "really dead", inasmuch as House Rules and Legislative Policy Committee Chairman Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) has said he will not hold a hearing on the measure, and a short session preoccupied with property tax measures is rapidly drawing to a close. I have good reasons to believe that Representative Pelath was further reinforced in his intentions after having received a copy of the law professors' grading. There's always a last-minute chance for a procedural maneuver, but I will hope and agree that one has to listen very, very carefully to detect any pulse, and that sound may instead be Advance America's Eric Miller banging his head against the wall.
More and more, Hoosiers seem to be giving him a failing grade, too. Just like those 56 Hoosier law profs.