Earlier this week, I spoke on the phone with Indy Star reporter Jon Murray about my opposition to HJR-6, Indiana’s proposed Constitutional ban of same sex marriage and anything that resembles it.


The bill is summarized here:


Marriage. Provides that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized. This proposed amendment has not been previously agreed to by a general assembly.


As of now, the bill has already passed our Senate and House once, and if it passes again this year, it could be on ballots this November. I am firmly opposed to this amendment, and here’s why:


It’s unnecessary. Gay marriage is already illegal in Indiana. Do we really need an amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman? I have a lot of friends who are fans of small government–it seems counter-intuitive that this would be a Republican-led issue when this is a bill that restricts people’s rights more than they already are restricted. Do we need a law that has a primary purpose of making something illegal that is already illegal? Plus, gay marriage is becoming more and more acceptable with time, and eventually there will be some sort of challenge that will nullify this amendment. Even in Indiana, which is a super red state on pretty much every issue, there is not a majority of citizens who are opposed to gay marriage.

Map source with key The light blue demonstrates that there is not a majority of residents who are opposed to same-sex marriage.

Map source with key
The light blue demonstrates that there is not a majority of residents who are opposed to same-sex marriage.


It’s harmful to LGBT individuals. This bill doesn’t just define marriage or prevent two men or two women from getting married to each other. It also prevents Indiana from recognizing anything that looks like marriage. In other words, civil unions will never have a chance here. Critics of same-sex marriage often say that the rights associated with marriage could all be obtained via private contracts, but what happens if those contracts are not allowed to be recognized by the state because they look too much like marriage contracts? I also see a lot of anti-same-sex marriage folks say that they don’t care about civil unions, so long as LGBT people aren’t granted access to the word marriage. They say things like, “We just want to protect the sanctity of marriage. We don’t care what two consenting adults do in their bedrooms, but we just need to protect the fact that marriage is a God-ordained arrangement that is different from other civil partnerships.” This amendment proves to me that claims like that are just lip service, and that, given the chance, people who are opposed to same-sex marriage are also opposed to individuals living their lives the way they want to.


It has the potential to be harmful to the state’s economy. There are financial benefits and incentives for individuals to marry, and closing the door to marriage opportunities for a percentage of the population prevents those individuals from accessing those benefits. Plus, eventually allowing same-sex marriage in Indiana will help our hospitality and service industry. However, I’m more concerned about the message that Indiana will be sending with this amendment. I can guarantee that if I were a lesbian woman, I would not have wanted to move back here from New Hampshire like I did three years ago. We already suffer from the “brain drain,” in which Indiana’s college students tend to do one thing upon graduating: get out of the state. Do we really think that creating a hostile environment for LGBT people will encourage any progressive-minded individuals to stay in this state? Not everyone is going to be convinced to leave because of an amendment like this, but it certainly could contribute to the idea that Indiana is not a place that you stay once you finish your education. (Note: even the Christian university where I teach is crawling with students who support same sex marriage and gay rights.)

Photo credit: Stephanie Burns

Photo credit: Stephanie Burns


The reasons being used to promote this ban are irrational and incorrect. Indiana’s chapter of Advance America, one of the main groups promoting HJR-6, encouraged churches to include a flier about the proposal in their bulletins. It was full of misinformation and straight-out lies. Some facts: (1) Preachers can preach whatever they want against whomever they want. There is a reason no one has ever arrested the Phelps family for their vile claims about LGBT people. Someone being arrested in a different country for preaching against gay people does not mean that it will happen in the US. Also, someone being arrested for inciting violence against LGBT people is not the same as someone being prohibited from preaching that a certain act is a sin. (2) Yes, some individuals have been sued for discriminating against gay couples, but this is a totally separate matter from gay marriage. Defining marriage as being between a man and a woman doesn’t offer any additional protections. Lawsuits like that are going to continue to happen regardless of whether or not an amendment like this is added to the state constitution. (3) There are no transgender people who want to use the “opposite” sex’s bathroom in order to sexually assault people. Transgender people want to use the bathroom that matches their identity because using the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth can be dangerous and demeaning.


LGBT people are not the monsters they are being painted to be by proponents of HJR-6, and more and more Hoosiers know that. Think of the negative things you’ve heard about LGBT people from ministers, parents, friends, colleagues, legislators, celebrities, and writers. LGBT individuals have been portrayed as sexual deviants who are dangerous to our society and our children. Maybe there was a time when this stereotype felt real to most Hoosiers, but as more LGBT people come out, it becomes more and more obvious to sensible Hoosiers that the narrative of the devious, dangerous gay person just doesn’t match reality. Think of the people you know who are LGBT. I can think of countless LGBT friends and family, none of whom are a threat to me or my family.


  • There is my friend from back in my teenage missionary days who has transitioned to womanhood beautifully and with great bravery. She is a scientist and a scholar, a mother and a wife, a Christian and a poet.


  • There are my countless friends from college (yes, from Taylor University, which would have expelled them if they had come out) who are all living their lives with integrity and humor and joy.


  • There are my former colleagues at numerous jobs–an arts center, the University of New Hampshire, a LensCrafters in New England. All of whom were just regular people, doing their jobs and supporting their families and being my friends.


  • There are my students–rare and special students who dare to be out on a Christian college campus and therefore face constant scrutiny from their peers who see their honesty as some sort of sinful pride.


  • And of course, there is my dad, who came out publicly in 2008 and faced outrage and accusations from his many fans with more dignity than I could have ever managed. How is he a threat to me or my family? He is the person I call on long car rides to talk about how much grading I have to do. He is Papaw to my daughter and her cousins–Papaw who is so funny and so generous and so silly. Is he a debauched, dangerous person simply because he is in a relationship with Franco, someone my whole family loves to spend time with? Of course not. Anyone who knows him knows that he is a good, safe, wonderful person who is a threat to no one.


My dad and my daughter

My dad and my daughter

More and more Hoosiers are becoming aware of the fact that the “homosexual agenda” is a myth. Let’s not let the fact that some people still need to realize this be a reason for us to add a harmful amendment to our state constitution.


Please, oppose HJR-6. Get informed about the facts of this law. Contact your legislator. Find out about all the groups of educators, business owners, mayors, and others who oppose the amendment. Talk to your friends. Write your own reasons for opposing this amendment. Spread the word.