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Anti-HJR 6 leaders discuss opposition to legislation

By Matt Bloom

Prominent voices in Indiana’s marriage equality debate gathered at the IU Maurer School of Law Monday to argue against the proposed House Joint Resolution 6 constitutional amendment. HJR 6 would void all same-sex marriages or civil unions in Indiana, even those solemnized in other states.

IU government relations staff plans to visit state legislators face-to-face in its effort to oppose the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“Our boots are on the ground,” said Jackie Simmons, IU’s vice president and general counsel.

Representatives from IU, Freedom Indiana and Cummins Inc. answered questions from an audience of almost 200 law students, faculty and community members regarding their respective organization’s stances against HJR 6.

IU announced publicly its opposition to HJR 6 last week and was joined by DePauw University and Wabash College Monday.

Purdue University officials said the school, led by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, will not take a position on the issue, according to the Associated Press.

Matt Showalter, president of Outlaw at IU Maurer School of Law , helped organize Monday’s event, which was intended to showcase a broad array of perspectives.

He said Outlaw extended an invitation to pro-HJR 6 organizations such as the Indiana Family Institute and the Pence administration to speak in favor of the amendment, but neither organization attended the meeting.

Ryan McCann, the director of operations and public policy at the Indiana Family Institute, a public education and research organization based in Zionsville, Ind., said the decision of what constitutes as marriage should be put in the hands of Indiana’s public.

Simmons said the amendment would endanger the recruitment and retention of public employers like IU that have adopted domestic partner benefit programs for their employees.

“If you’re trying to recruit a great chemist or professor from another university, it’s important to them that IU has a community that respects diversity and treats people fairly,” Simmons said.

Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, said an individual’s support of Freedom Indiana isn’t reliant on his or her support of gay marriage.

“Our campaign is a very broad coalition of organizations, faith groups and businesses,” she said.

Robertson is a Republican campaign organizer who has served under the likes of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and organized campaign rallies for Sarah Palin — politicians who are in favor of HJR 6.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” she said. “It was my responsibility to stand up as a Republican and say that I am against this.”

If the Indiana General Assembly votes in favor of the amendment, it will appear on ballots for Indiana voters in next year’s off-year election in November.

“Right now is a critical point in the campaign effort,” IU law professor Steve Saunders said.

Robertson said Indiana is moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the country with the consideration of HJR 6, especially since 14 states now recognize same-sex marriage.

“If this ends up going to the ballot, we are prepared to fight it at the ballot box,” Richardson said. “I haven’t seen anything that compares to the excitement of this campaign in my 10 years of work.”
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