Group defines danger of marriage amendment

Herald Staff Writer

FERDINAND — Freedom Indiana volunteers were in Ferdinand on Wednesday evening to talk about the grass-roots organization’s strategy to stop a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution concerning same-gender marriages.

The group, which is trying to get House Joint Resolution 6 defeated in the Legislature, talked to about 50 people who came to a community meeting at 1440 Main Street.

HJR6 would add into the constitution: “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana” and “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

State law already stipulates that same-sex marriage is banned. The second sentence of HJR6 is new and has Freedom Indiana organizers very concerned.

“The second sentence bans any sort of legal connection that same-sex couples could have (such as) civil unions, domestic partnership benefit plans,” said Matthew Ruark, Freedom Indiana’s organizer for House District 74. “It could even put at risk existing benefit plans, such as benefits a public university offers to their faculty and staff with domestic partners.”

Legislators first voted on and passed HJR6 in 2011.

Indiana law states that both chambers of two consecutive General Assembly bodies must approve the resolution for the amendment twice for it to be put on the ballot for voters to consider as a referendum. If one General Assembly passes it, the second passage must be done by the same body or the next one that is voted into office.

The 2014 legislative session, which starts in January, is the last opportunity for legislators to give HJR6 its second vote of approval.

If they don’t, the resolution will die and the process would have to start over for such an amendment to be considered again. If both chambers approve the resolution during the 2014 session, the referendum will be on the general election ballot in November of next year.

Ruark said at Wednesday’s meeting that 64 percent of Hoosiers polled by Freedom Indiana believe amending the state constitution is not the way to decide the issue of marriage.

Organizers said that this issue can cause division in families and communities. Plus, Ruark said, not as many people go to the polls in election years — like 2014 — that don’t have presidential elections. So it makes more sense to contact state legislators and get them to vote against the bill.

Joe Huddleston of Jasper said after the meeting that he felt that the language of HJR6 should not be put into the state constitution. “I think two consenting adults should be able to do what they want.
Marriage is more than about sex,” he said. “Amending the constitution for social issues is just wrong.”

Local suicide prevention advocate Janet Schnell said that the National Strategies for Suicide Prevention notes for each state key groups that seem to have a higher suicide rate. Recently, the agency noted one of those groups for Indiana is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, she said.

“It’s the depression. Discrimination hurts,” Schnell said. “And if people feel like they are not accepted in their community, it hurts.”

Freedom Indiana asked for the support of the people at Wednesday’s meeting. Several people volunteered to help by holding meetings, contributing money and talking to people that they know about the matter.


Contact Candy Neal at

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