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Bar Association stands against gay-marriage amendment

January 27, 2014

Backed by nearly three-fourths of its members, the Indianapolis Bar Association has taken the unusual step of announcing its opposition to the gay-marriage amendment being debated at the Statehouse.

The announcement comes after several members asked the association to take a position on the proposed constitutional amendment and after the board of directors discussed the issues many times, according to 2014 IndyBar President Jeff Abrams. To be sure of the members’ views, the association conducted a survey and found more than 70 percent favored taking a public stance opposing the amendment, HJR 3, and companion legislation, House Bill 1153.

 “This is unique,” Abrams said. “I would say our legislative committee has voiced opinions before on proposed bills that affect how our lawyers practice law. This is going one step further and making a statement on behalf of our entire membership.”

A survey of its 4,928 attorneys, judges, paralegals and law students conducted last week drew 2,196 responses—a response rate of 47.4 percent, the highest response rate on record for the association.

Of the members who replied to the survey, 73.1 percent were in favor of publicly opposing HJR 3 while 20.1 percent favored taking no position on the measure. A slim portion, 5.4 percent, favored supporting the amendment and 1.5 percent expressed no opinion.

The association joins many major businesses in Indiana, universities, and municipalities in opposing the controversial amendment.

Looking at the Indiana Constitution’s history and precedent, the IndyBar contends the content of the amendment is inappropriate. Prior amendments dealt with defining the role and operation of state government. None focused on regulating individual citizens, as HJR 3 does.

In addition, the bar association has concerns about the unintended consequences upon potentially hundreds of state laws if the amendment is approved by the Legislature and ratified by the public. The uncertainty, the association asserts, would likely lead to an interruption in the administration of justice, years of litigation, and significant expense for individual citizens and Indiana businesses.

The marriage amendment was approved by the House Elections and Apportionment Committee last week and could be voted on by the House of Representatives as early as Monday.

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