Gay marriage advocates, foes square off

Protestors to a proposed amendment to the state's constitution to ban gay marriage gather outside a hearing of the House elections committee at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Amend Indiana’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, or leave the door open to possibly legalizing it down the road? That’s the decision state lawmakers are wrestling with.

Both opponents and supporters of gay marriage have a lot of arguments to back up their positions, and in the finale of NewsChannel 15’s series of special reports on the issue (the first two reports may be seen by clicking here), both make their best cases for the views they hold.

“It’s basically hanging up a banner at the state line and saying certain people aren’t welcome here. And as a lifelong Hoosier, that’s not what I’ve always found to be the case here,” said Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, a prominent group opposing the marriage amendment. The amendment is officially known in the legislature as HJR-3.

“I don’t think that saying I’m for marriage means I’m against other things,” countered Curt Smith, who leads the Indiana Family Institute, a group that supports the passage of the amendment. “You know, to say I want to have Indiana be the best place to raise kids is just to say that’s a good thing.”

You would expect paid activists like Smith and Robertson to argue passionately for their positions. But the debate over the amendment goes beyond their circles and has aroused the passions of everyday people.

“I have to hold to the beliefs of [the] Scriptures,” said Denny Miller, lead pastor of Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne. Miller is about as apolitical as a per can get.

Greg and Andrea Weaver of Fort Wayne have devoted their best energies over their three-plus decades of marriage to working as registered nurses and raising two children.

But Miller and the Weavers all care about strengthening the current definition of marriage.

“Anything that happens that’s of this kind of moment and this kind of significance, it affects us all,” said Greg Weaver.

On the other side of the debate, Kody Tinnel and Cory Allen are busy establishing themselves as young professionals.

“I think our main concern is equal rights,” said Allen.

The lives of Jeannie DiClementi and Mary Ross are consumed with caring for their two special needs daughters. But both local same-sex couples are closely following the debate over HJR-3, hoping it’s defeated and that Indiana shows an openness to welcoming gay marriage down the road.

“It would change Indiana’s image for the better,” said DiClementi.

The differences in the two sides’ views are vast and numerous. Gay marriage supporters say not recognizing same-sex unions will eventually hurt the state’s economy.

“You know who does create jobs? Places like Lilly, places like Cummins, places like all of the other businesses that have joined on board,” said Robertson, who personally supports gay marriage though her organization’s lone goal at this point is to defeat HJR-3. “If the folks who are in charge of creating jobs say it inhibits their ability to do that, then I’m going to listen to them.”

Traditionalists see it differently. “Well, I think it would hurt the state economically to have families that are not intact,” countered Andrea Weaver, who believes there is a higher breakup rate among same-sex couples than heterosexual couples.

Her contention leads to a key talking point of traditional marriage advocates. They say homes with both a mother and father are generally the best environments for raising healthy kids who become responsible citizens and contribute to society, and that those types of homes should therefore be encouraged.

“We want to preserve a culture of marriage in Indiana,” said Smith.

“It’s designed to bring glory to God, and especially to protect the rights [of children], delineate the responsibilities of parents, [and] make sure that there’s fathers around,” said Greg Weaver, who nonetheless called Ross and DiClementi “heroic” for adopting their elementary school-aged daughters and rescuing them from an abusive situation rather than leaving the girls to the foster care system.

Gay marriage advocates dispute the view that homes headed by married mothers and fathers should be seen as the ideal. “Children can be raised in many different environments that can be perfectly productive and healthy and happy,” said Tinnel. “It’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution that you need to have a mother and father.”

“There is tons and tons of research that says that as long as the children are in a loving home, the gender of the parents does not have an impact on it,” said DiClementi.

The debate between the two camps could go on and on. People on each side can point to studies and stories that back up their points of view.

But the debate ultimately comes down to different, deeply-felt convictions. One side sees gay marriage -not homosexuality per se, but same sex wedlock- as an intrusion that weakens the basic building block of society.

“When it comes to this unique thing when a man and a woman come together, there’s always the potential for new life and we think that should be favored in state law and given a special place with obligations and rights,” said Smith.

The other side sees the fight for gay marriage as a struggle for civil rights.

“When you look at our state constitution, amending it to limit rights is certainly not what constitutions are typically used for. It’s usually used to define what rights people absolutely must have,” said Robertson.

The passions? Fierce. The tension? Unlikely to ever be resolved.

“I’m certainly tolerant of their practices, but I’m not going to accept a redefinition of marriage,” said Andrea Weaver.

“That’s their conscience, and that’s fine,” said DiClementi of people who harbor religious concerns about gay marriage. “They’re entitled to their conscience. What does that have to do with me and my family?”

The question now is: Which view will ultimately carry the day?

The Indiana Senate may set the course for the amendment’s future as soon as Thursday. It could reinsert language banning civil unions, possibly setting up a public vote later this year. It could pass a revised version without that language, delaying a potential vote until 2016. Finally, the proposal could die if lawmakers in the state House and Senate fail to pass versions of the amendment that contain identical language.


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