“A Fearful Stumble Backward”: Lafayette Clergy on HJR 6

A guest column appeared in the Lafayette Journal & Courier setting forth opposition to HJR 6 by 22 local clergy members.

The significance of this, I would say, is that it diminishes the potential of framing the issue as a religious versus non-religious issue or as the forces of morality versus the forces of immorality. In the past, it seems like the political narrative would suggest that “values voters” oppose anything that looked like cultural normalization of gay people. This kind of column muddies the water in that respect.

They say:

Our various religious traditions teach us to engage in the slow and demanding work of transformation. Day by day, we are called to make ourselves and the world around us a little bit better: a more loving, more hopeful and more authentic place, where all of God’s children have a chance to flourish.

As Greater Lafayette area clergy, we believe HJR-6 — the proposed amendment regarding marriage — is a fearful stumble backward instead of a faithful step forward in the work of transformation. We are united in our belief that this amendment would dignify discrimination and threaten religious liberty.

It undermines the rights of same-sex couples and their families, both long-time Hoosiers and newly arrived transplants, by jeopardizing employer-provided family benefits, legal contracts and human rights ordinances. All Hoosiers should be entitled to equal rights and protections under our state law.

That is strong work.

I do, however, take some issue with some legal analysis in the column. They point out the distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage and correctly recognize that, when heterosexual couples in Indiana are married by a religious institution, those couples receive the benefits of both religious and civil marriage. Under IC 31-11-11, same sex couples who receive the benefit of religious marriage in their church would not receive the civil benefits of marriage.

However, where the column goes legally astray, in my opinion, is when it suggests that IC 31-11-11-7 might be a restriction on their religious liberties. It provides a criminal penalty for those who “solemnize” a same sex marriage. But, I don’t think this can be fairly read to criminalize the act of sanctioning a marriage religiously. Rather, the context of the law really points to the notion that “solemnization” has to do with certifying the marriage to the State for purposes of the marriage receiving civil recognition. We had some discussion of “solemnization” here back when there were accusations flying that the General Assembly had criminalized the act of even applying for a marriage certificate by same sex couples.

So, while I agree with the column’s stance against HJR 6 as being bad policy; I can’t embrace the contention that its passage is a step down the slippery slope into religious oppression.


  1. says

    They (or their lawyer) may be faulty in their legal reasoning, but isn’t a big issue with HJR6 — other than it being a noxious piece of legislation — that it’s so vaguely written? In Illinois, for example, the marriage equality law is very clear that a church is NOT required to perform ceremonies, whereas HJR6 doesn’t say, specifically, a church is free to perform a ceremony it calls marriage between two consenting adults of the same sex.

  2. says

    My cousin and his partner are getting married in Palm Springs. Great guys both middle aged professionals that won’t have any kids. They been have together for over 30 years. They do a lot of charity work for their community. Oh did I mention they are both devoted Catholics.

    Hmmm what would Jesus do??? ;)

  3. TMarks says

    We are just witnessing more of a “make your own morals” change to religion in general. You want to do x activity, but current doctrine claims it is a sin/wrong, so you just work to change the doctrine who x activity is now moral and righteous. When will these religious leaders call for the state to repeal the bigamy law?

  4. says

    I looked over the list of signers and can pretty well predict the reaction from The Right, whether or not they publish it in response: “Sniff! Harumph! Those clergy aren’t even Real Christians (TM)!”
    I don’t know what this does to the people who haven’t already made up their minds, though. Will anyone really feel that this letter baptizes a vote against HJR 6? I’m far too far out of the mainstream to intuit that.

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