Leonard Helfrich is a resident of Fort Wayne.
Since anti-gay marriage amendments have been under consideration for years now, I would have hoped that our state legislators would better understand the message this amendment sends to our gay citizens, as well as the message it sends to others outside our state who might want to move here as residents or locate businesses here.
Although I oppose the entire amendment because I believe, at bottom, its message to gay people is (1) that you need to stay in your second-class place, (2) that you are not as good as we are, and (3) you shouldn’t expect us to respect your relationships, I am most concerned about the second sentence and our legislators’ willingness to gamble with gay and lesbian people’s lives and fortunes on what it may or may not mean.
It seems incumbent on our legislators to understand how a court might construe the second sentence in not granting any legal status similar to marriage to unmarried individuals (by definition gay couples). Could a judge construe it to mean that he or she can’t use the probate office to enforce a contested will in favor of a long-term partner? Can or should a medical power of attorney obviously based on the fact that the attorney is the ill person’s partner be ignored by a hospital that receives state money because the grant of the power of attorney was based on a relationship “similar to marriage”?
If your legislator says to you, or thinks, that neither of things would happen, I point you to Michigan where the proponents of their amendment said it had nothing to do with trying to remove benefits that aren’t related to marriage. Yet, days after the amendment was adopted by the voters, they sued the state to force universities to stop offering domestic partner benefits, a benefit they had explicitly said was not one related to marriage.
I have to say I find it galling that our legislators are willing to demonize gay persons’ relationships as somehow a threat to their own relationships. I find it equally galling that our legislature might decide to hold a majority vote on gay persons’ civil rights. I suspect if you held a vote in the 1950s about whether African-Americans deserved equal rights, an amendment denying them those rights would have a had a close outcome. Fortunately, fairer heads prevailed, and such a vote was never held.
I hope that our legislators will consider whether this amendment even addresses a real problem, and how it would affect the lives of our gay and lesbian citizens. We should not for the first time enshrine discrimination in our state’s constitution.