While Utah and Virginia have recently garnered a lot of media attention in the battle to protect marriage, don’t forget about Indiana. We’re engaged in the struggle to protect marriage in our state as well. On Monday (Feb. 10th), I participated in the Pro-Marriage Rally, sponsored by various national, state and local family groups, at the Indiana State Capitol building in Indianapolis. Unlike some of the past marriage rallies that I have had the privilege of attending, representatives from both sides of the debate were out in full force to hear the Indiana Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee hearing on House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR-3), which proposes to amend the Indiana Constitution by defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
When I arrived early, the only thing I saw at first were the signs, stickers, and rainbows of the Freedom Indiana gay lobby group and its ardent supporters. It was another powerful demonstration of the well-organized, heavily funded gay rights movement. The HJR-3 opposition is backed by Indiana University, the Eli Lilly Foundation, and the NCAA.
It was especially heartbreaking to witness a group of ministers representing several of the morally compromising churches. They were easily identifiable by their fancy robes and rainbow-colored stoles. At one point, they formed a circle, joined hands, placed a large red ribbon around their shoulders, and proceeded to pray for the failure of the marriage amendment. It’s truly amazing the lengths to which some people will go to make sin seem like something spiritual. I couldn’t help thinking, “I wish they loved the word of God as much as they do their elaborate vestments.”
Eventually, the traditional marriage supporters began to trickle in to the capitol building and before long we had a fairly sizable group. Nevertheless, it was still obvious to me that our side was substantially underrepresented, being outnumbered by perhaps as much as two to one. According to the Indianapolis Star, “Supporters of HJR-3 had a more visible presence in the statehouse hallways than during past hearings, thanks in large part to a contingent of some 35 black ministers and about 50 church members who gathered, with the help of Eric Miller, founder of Advance America, a conservative group pushing the amendment.”
The entire crowd, both sides included, that was gathered at the statehouse conducted itself in a civil and orderly fashion. In fact, as I and another gentleman from my church were attempting to gain access to the viewing gallery, it was representatives from the Freedom Indiana gay lobby that pointed us in the right direction and held our signs while we waited in line. Unfortunately, we missed the cut. The viewing gallery only has a seating capacity of eighty-one people, and we were about ten people too far back in line. So, we were forced to gather around a television monitor and watch the hearing out in the hall.
Prior to the testimony, Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-16) stated that each side would be given an uninterrupted period of ninety minutes to present their position. Following a ten minute opening statement, each designated speaker was then given five minutes to make their best case. The proponents went first, followed by the opponents. What was presented by both sides exemplified a microcosm of the current national debate on this issue.
On one side, local ministers, representatives from state and national conservative family groups, a Catholic leader, a former lesbian, and even a self-professing gay man all attempted to persuade the senators to support the marriage amendment.
On the other side, parents of gays and lesbians, university and business leaders, and an Air Force sergeant made their case in opposition to HJR-3.
Many on our side of the debate, argued during their Senate testimony for the reinstatement of the “controversial” second sentence, which would also ban civil unions and “substantially similar” arrangements. The House earlier removed that provision before it was sent to the Senate. This is an important matter because the Indiana Constitution can only be amended when two successive sessions of the General Assembly approve such a measure in the same form. In 2011, both houses of the Indiana General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to support this amendment with the second sentence included. As the pro-traditional marriage supporters pointed out during the Senate Rules Committee hearing, the absence of the second sentence means that the voters of Indiana will have to wait until at least 2016 when a newly elected Indiana House and Senate will have an opportunity to vote on the current version. Then, if it passes, the amendment can be put on the ballot in our state. However, without the civil unions or “substantially similar” provision, Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute made it abundantly clear that there is a much greater likelihood of having this amendment overturned later in the courts because judges in other states have ruled that such limited language represents unconstitutional discrimination against a particular group.
Here is a sampling of some of the best sound bites from the traditional marriage advocates’ testimony:
Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg: “Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society.”
Micah Clark, director of the American Family Association of Indiana: “Marriage is the special union of a man and a woman that has served Indiana well since our founding,”
Allison Slater of the National Organization for Marriage: “The question we are debating today is not about equality. Children are born with a mother-shaped hole and a father-shaped hole in their hearts. Logic and biology dictate that a woman cannot be a father and a man cannot be a mother, no matter how much they love that child.”
Glen Tebbe of the Indiana Catholic Conference: “Church nor State can redefine marriage, since God defined it.”
Doug Mainwaring, who identified himself as a gay man married to a woman, argued for the original language of HJR-3: “Civil unions are a trap. They satisfy no one, weaken the institution of marriage and deprive kids of a mom and a dad.” (He also interestingly described how redefining marriage is actually “un-defining” and “unraveling” it.)
Pastor Douglas T. Tate Jr.: “This is not hate talk. It’s love.”
The Rev. Wayne Harris of Christian Tabernacle Church in Evansville, whose daughter has “experienced” the gay lifestyle: “The Bible binds me…since the Bible does not support same-sex partnerships, neither can I. The shame of this matter is not to those who oppose this lifestyle, but the shame belongs to those who live it and those who support it.”
Bishop Willie Duncan of the United Apostolic Churches: “Marriage is for procreation, not recreation.”
In addition to the above quotes, the Senate testimony of the proponents included many other interesting points. There were statements about studies indicating that children do academically better in opposite sex households. The dangers to religious and conscience rights were also exposed by highlighting a very recent case in Indianapolis in which a bakery, Just Cookies, is now undergoing an unpleasant inquiry by city officials for declining to make cupcakes with little rainbows on them for a diversity group at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). And despite the opposition’s claims to the contrary, the AFA’s Micah Clark also underscored how the states that protect marriage are actually experiencing greater growth in high-paying, high-tech jobs. Finally, Ryan McCann of the Indiana Family Institute reminded the senators that a marriage amendment would not force businesses to stop offering domestic partner benefits, and he pointed to the state of Wisconsin as an example.
As the opponents stepped up to the podium to urge the Senate to reject HJR-3, they repeatedly hurled the usual buzzwords of freedom, liberty, fairness, bigotry, and discrimination. Despite the fact that at least two ex-gays earlier testified in favor of HJR-3, there were still several homosexuals and their parents that argued for the innate nature of homosexuality (the “born this way” argument). In this respect, there was nothing new; it was all to be expected. We’ve heard gay activists make these identical points countless times before.
But then, they resorted to a “throwing everything but the kitchen sink” tactic. Although they adamantly reject our clearly demonstrated slippery slope argument, it was quite ironic to hear them presenting their own twisted version of the exact same reasoning. According to the opponents of HJR-3, the passage of this amendment would lead to just about every horror that they, or anyone, can imagine. Such a measure, they claimed, would harm businesses, encourage the bullying of children in our schools, create a mass exodus from the state, and result in same-sex families losing their children. And that’s just a few of their outrageous claims. It was classic “the sky is falling” rhetoric, long on emotion (complete with tears) and short on reason. Even though marriage has always been illegal in Indiana and none of these kinds of things have happened, they still managed to say all of this with a straight face. Meanwhile, out in the hallways, the pro-same-sex marriage supporters cheered wildly throughout.
As an example of their testimony, Steve Fry of Eli Lilly stated that this amendment would negatively impact his company’s ability to recruit new talent to the state of Indiana. But if it hasn’t hurt his or other businesses so far, how will HJR-3 hurt them now since it merely protects and preserves the status quo?
Phil Cooper testified against HJR-3, stating that he wanted to keep his daughter from being “further denigrated as a second-class citizen.” Likewise, Rev. Bob Shaw said that God made all children and “God don’t make no junk.” Rev. Shaw also asserted that HJR-3 would intensify the bullying of LGBT children. Of course, nobody is being denigrated or called “junk” strictly on the basis of a marriage amendment. To the contrary, Christian marriage proponents constantly articulate and defend the intrinsic, infinite value of all human beings, but not all behaviors. Moreover, there will be no changes to the school bullying policies in the state. There currently are, and always will be, “zero-tolerance” for such activities.
During her anti-HJR-3 testimony, Fort Wayne resident Jennifer Fisher shared the story of her and her partner, a police officer. It was your typical emotional manipulation at its best. “The reality is that as we prepare to start a family in the state of Indiana, this legislation is scary,” she said. “She’ll [her partner] have our children, and legally I will have no right to those children. If she is killed in the line of duty, someone could take away my family.” Once again, these emotional scare tactics make for good provocative fodder, but they hold no water. Nightmares of police and Department of Family and Children Services officials invading the homes of homosexuals exist only in their minds. There have been no recorded cases in Indiana of these kinds of worst-case scenarios, and we have no reason to assume that there will be. Children will not be stripped from the arms of loving parents or legal guardians unless there are actual issues such as child abuse or neglect, but that’s also the case with any family, gay or straight.
Ultimately, in a strictly party-line vote, the 12-member Rules Committee voted 8-4 to send HJR-3 to the full Senate. Prior to the vote, there was no discussion by the committee members about restoring the amendment’s second sentence. The pro-same-sex marriage supporters were quick to chalk this up as a victory for their side. However, according to the Indiana Family Institute’s Director of Operations and Public Policy, Ryan McCann, the Senate could consider the question of whether to restore the second sentence as early as Thursday, when the measure comes up for a second reading before the full 50-member Senate. Sometime after that, the Republican-dominated chamber is expected to vote to approve the measure. If approved with the second sentence reinstated, then it will go back to the house. If it is approved as is, then the General Assembly will have to take up the issue once again in 2016 before it can possibly be put on the ballot. The only way HJR-3 can be put on the ballot this year is for both houses to eventually vote to approve the measure with the second sentence restored. The Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, has already publicly stated his support for the original language.
There were some good takeaways from this rally. First of all, it is always personally invigorating to know that you’re doing the right thing and standing up for the truth. We also met some great fellow believers and made connections with many like-minded ministers and leaders. I even had the opportunity to meet the newly hired National Organization for Marriage Representative, Suzy Barnhart, fresh off of her campaign for Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia Governor’s race. Most, of all, however, I was reminded of the fact that many more Bible-believing Christians need to get actively involved and defend marriage, especially since there are so many pseudo-ministers who are throwing their weight behind the same-sex marriage cause.
During the rally, while I was talking with some of the members of the Salt & Light ministry, there was a gentleman with their group who, when he discovered that I was a minister, came running over to me and said that he had a question for me. Already aware of what he was probably going to ask, he sincerely inquired, “How can all of these ministers that are here today support same-sex marriage?”
Having no satisfactory answer to his question, I assured him that they only represented a small minority of ministers and that most pastors hold to the biblical definition of marriage. To this, he replied with a second question that was equally as challenging, “Then, where are they?” (That’s a great question that demands an answer!)
We discussed how some Christians will point to the book of Revelation and say, “There’s nothing we can do about it. The Bible predicts that things will get worse in the end. This is just a fulfillment of prophecy.”
Then again, I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where it tells us to lay down and die…to just throw up our hands and concede defeat. Fatalism, no matter how biblical or spiritual we try to make it sound, is NOT a virtue. The Bible very clearly calls us to contend for the faith, put on the full armor, engage the Evil One, and demolish every argument that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (Jude 1:3; Eph. 6:10-20; 2 Cor. 10:5). That’s not just true for ministers; the same thing needs to be said to ALL Christians. We cannot not go down without a fight!
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