Moving forward on Indiana’s constitutional amendment
Last night, the Elections and Apportionment Committee voted to approve HJR 3, the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, along with its companion “explainer” bill. All 9 Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bills, and asked few — if any — questions during the hearing; the 3 Democrats who were present voted against them. (Democratic Rep. Terry Goodin was absent, apparently due to a family medical emergency.) The outcome was unsurprising, given that Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Geist) had taken the unusual step of reassigning the bills from the Judiciary Committee.
The amendment must still pass the House and the Senate before it goes to Indiana voters in November.
After the vote, I saw many posts on Twitter (and even on Facebook) that expressed the frustration, disgust, anger, and disappointment that many people felt. Several people posted that they were ashamed of our state. I felt many of those things, too. But what I found helpful was remembering the words of Dr. King that I was re-reading just a couple of days ago:
In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself. (from “The Most Durable Power,” an excerpt from a 1956 sermon)
When Dr. King spoke those words, they were in the context of the Montgomery Bus Boycott — in fact, just a week after that sermon, the Supreme Court struck down Alabama’s segregation laws. I’m not arguing that we should make an apples-to-apples comparison of the fight against racial segregation and the struggle for marriage equality. But I do think that we can learn from the successful strategies and tactics of the past century.
I’m not saying, “Don’t be angry.” We should be angry — as Indy Star columnist Erika Smith wrote last night, “They’re right. Because all Hoosiers should feel betrayed and disgusted.”
I’m not saying, “Don’t vote them out.” We should vote out of office every member of the Elections committee who voted for this bill, and every member of the General Assembly who votes to write this discrimination into our state’s constitution. We should make sure all of our friends and family and neighbors vote.
But we’ve got to be careful to make sure that being angry and voting them out don’t become ends unto themselves. For that matter, defeating this constitutional amendment shouldn’t be an end unto itself. Our goal is fairness. Our end is justice.
Basic fairness in our civil marriage laws will leave all of us better off. Marriage equality is not just about the 614 laws and rights and responsibilities involved. Marriage equality won’t stop all anti-LGBT discrimination or solve homophobia once and for all. But marriage equality will make our communities stronger and more just, and better places to live for everyone — even the people who oppose “gay marriage” today.
King made it a point to distinguish between the forces of evil and people caught up in those forces. “The tension,” he wrote, “is at bottom between justice and injustice…” I’m going to try to remember that throughout this fight.