March 17th, 2004
Back to Opinion page.
Last month, Republicans in the Indiana House of Representatives walked out, denying a quorum and grinding legislative business to a halt. Republicans were upset at the refusal of House Democrats to allow a debate and a vote on an Amendment to Indiana's Constitution banning homosexual marriage. Many bills languished and died when the time allotted for the legislative session ran out.
The amendment passed the Senate but could not get out of committee in the House. It was co-sponsored by 55 Representatives: all 49 Republicans and six Democrats, including Bloomington's own Peggy Welch (D-60). When the bill could not get out of committee, Republicans pushed for a little-used "blast motion" to move the bill out of committee and onto the House floor. When Democrats would not agree to the motion, Republicans walked out.
Welch, a conservative Christian whose opposition to abortion and homosexual marriage sets her apart from other Democrats, told the Herald-Times; "I have loyalty to my caucus and greater loyalty to a higher power." Welch declined to say if she supported the "blast motion" or not.
The thing that should be clear here is the amendment failed not because of a lack of votes, but because the House leadership (specifically House Speaker Pat Bauer) did not want it to be passed. While Welch and five other Democrats supported the amendment, they are ultimately at fault for killing it because, by caucusing with the Democratic Party, they put the leadership in power that prevented it from going to the House floor. As I explained in August of 2002, voting for a "conservative" Democrat actually sets the conservative cause backward because those Democrats, like Welch, vote for the leadership (including the Speaker and committee chairmen) who kill conservative legislation. The same thing happened to another bill Welch sponsored, the Pharmacist's Conscience Act.
Even a Republican who goes against the Republican line on issues like abortion and homosexual marriage is more advantageous to getting a conservative agenda passed than a "conservative" Democrat. While I disagree with Welch's Republican opponent, Paul Hager, on some issues, I understand that voting for Hager would actually move conservative causes forward because Hager would vote for a Republican Speaker. Hager, a former Libertarian, also endorses a limited-government agenda that is well within the realm of conservative thought.
While Republicans are criticized for the "partisan politics' of the walkout, what about the political games played by Pat Bauer and the Democrats? This is an amendment that has broad support in both chambers of the Legislature and with the people of Indiana. Same-sex marriage is arguably the hottest political issue right now, forcing President Bush to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that he had been reluctant to endorse before the events in San Francisco and Massachusetts. But Bauer's games with the committee process thwarted the will of the poeple.
The February 24 Indianapolis Star reported that a group of homosexual Democrats asked for the marriage records of House Republicans, including the two Republican candidates for Governor, Mitch Daniels and Eric Miller. Miller said "Divorce is tragic, but it does not destroy the institution of marriage," said Miller, who noted he is divorced and has remarried. Legalizing same-sex marriage will destroy the institution of marriage."
I disagree with Miller, in that the fact that half of all marriages end in divorce has greatly harmed the institution of marriage. In fact, Jesus spoke very strongly against divorce. But the prevalence of divorce (including the quickie marriages and divorces of celebrities like Britney Spears) is not an argument for same-sex marriage. When making this argument, advocates of same-sex marriage seem to be arguing that with the damage divorce has done, same-sex marriage can't be that much worse. The problem with that argument is that divorce does not fundamentally change the institution of marriage from its current state of being a union of one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage does, and who is to say that these marriages will not have at leats the same divorce rate as heterosexual marriages?
Democrats argue that the amendment was not needed because Indiana already has a law on the books forbidding same sex marriage. But the rush of local government officials to perform gay marriages in places like San Francisco shows that the push will continue, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling illustrates that the courts may force their own will over the democratic process. In addition, local activists are pressuring city and county government to issue homosexual marriage licenses, as HR's own Matt Stevenson reported.
Republicans were criticized for the walkout, because they prevented much of the "work" from getting done in the house. But is that really a bad thing? Over 200 new laws were passed in the 2003 legislative session, affecting things ranging from breast feeding in public places to e-mail SPAM, identity theft and the sale of cigarettes by mail.
I'm sure that some new laws are necessary as new problems some up and to fix loopholes in old laws, but 200 of them, in one legislative session? Every time a new law is passed, government gets a little bit bigger and takes away a little more freedom. Even if the walkout was only for partisan political gain, we should thank the Republicans for it. Gridlock is good.