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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

politics

Illinois legalizes same-sex marriage

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law legalizing same-sex marriage in his state at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, a move that could alter the debate in Indiana.

Illinois became the 15th state to pass a pro-marriage equality bill Nov. 5. Indiana’s House Joint Resolution 6, which is awaiting a vote in the General Assembly, could have an opposite effect on marriage equality.

If Hoosiers vote in favor of the legislation, HJR 6 would amend the Indiana Constitution, defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Any other legal partnerships similar to marriage, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, would be illegal.

The vote to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois could affect how HJR 6 is debated, said Susan Sandberg, Bloomington City Council member. Illinois is the first state bordering Indiana to legalize same-sex marriage.

“With each and every state that stands up, I would think it would make it easier for other states like Indiana to reconsider or to consider doing the same,” Sandberg said. “Only time will tell.”

Illinois has a legacy of advancing basic human rights, CEO of Equality Illinois Bernard Cherkasov said. Equality Illinois claims to be the state’s largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

“We were the first in the Midwest to grant women the right to vote and to repeal sodomy laws,” Cherkasov said.

He said he thinks Illinois’ passage of the bill will help other states to do the same.

“They will see their neighbors getting married and society growing stronger when everyone is free and equal, and people in Indiana will want that as well,” Cherkasov said. “When Massachusetts became the first state, their neighbors saw the divorce rates going down and families getting stronger, and then nearby states followed. Iowa started it in the Midwest, and it will continue to grow.”

Others believe Illinois’ decision to pass marriage equality will have little effect on
Indiana.

“We have not taken our cues from Illinois since the Civil War,” said Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute. “It’s been well over 100 years since we’ve looked to Illinois. We have a different tax system, business culture and political system. Our governors visit prisons. Theirs go to prison.”

He also does not believe HJR 6 would make Indiana less welcoming.

“We are a tolerant state,” Smith said. “Hoosiers are just friendly and welcoming, and that’s not going to change if the wording is changed. It will still be a good place for jobs and for parents to raise children, straight or gay.”

Indiana Equality Action, a nonprofit that claims to advance equal rights and fight discrimination regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, believes if HJR 6 is passed, Indiana will send a message of intolerance.

“We estimate 1.4 to 1.7 million Hoosiers live within 45 minutes of the Illinois border,” said Chris Paulson, president of the board of directors for Indiana Equality Action. “A lot of those Hoosiers could choose to move to Illinois to have the responsibilities and benefits of marriage.”

New business could also be effected in Indiana, Paulson said.

“A company looking to move to the Midwest would look to Illinois before Indiana because they would rather have the headquarters in a state that is welcoming to everybody,” Paulson said.

The Illinois attorney general is still looking into whether or not Hoosiers can get married in Illinois without moving there, Paulson said.

“Right now, if a couple is not recognized in their home state, they can’t be married in Illinois,” Paulson said. “They are currently discussing changing that. It sounds like the legislature should change.”

Other Indiana groups are also fighting to defeat HJR 6.

“If HJR 6 makes it into our constitution, we’re not ever going to be able to have the debate Illinois did,” said Jennifer Wagner, director of communications for Freedom Indiana. Freedom Indiana is a group advocating against HJR 6 and has received the support of IU.

The bill Illinois passed created discussion on same-sex marriage, but HJR 6 will eliminate that discussion, Wagner said.

HJR 6 will appear before the Indiana General Assembly one more time, having already passed once. If it passes again, it will appear on the fall 2014 ballot.

Repeals to the Constitution must go through the same process.

Almost three-fourths of Hoosiers believe same-sex couples should have some legal recognition or rights, according to a Freedom Indiana press release.

“Lots of people in Indiana think there should be some protection for these couples, and this amendment wouldn’t allow any of that,” Wagner said.

In her lifetime, Wagner said she has only seen two other Indiana amendments pass, and they were overwhelmingly supported.

“On this, public opinion is split, so should we really be putting something in our constitution that might barely pass by 51 percent?” Wagner said.

Bloomington City Council has also drafted a resolution to oppose HJR 6 and support marriage equality.

“The resolution is not a law or a bill but is a community statement that reflects a vast majority of the people who live, work and make Bloomington their home,” said Sandberg, the primary sponsor of the resolution. “We do plan on sending it to Indiana’s governor and General Assembly.”

The resolution will be presented to the rest of the council and be voted on by city council members during the Dec. 4 city council meeting.

“We are ever hopeful that our legislature will realize that they should be discussing, not putting into our constitution,” Wagner said. “We shouldn’t permanently prohibit the conversation on same-sex marriage.”

Follow reporter Suzanne Grossman on Twitter @suzannepaige6.

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