Commentary and Opinion

MAURER: Corporate muscle lifts Indiana

March 1, 2014

Mickey MaurerCorporate Indy flexed its muscles last month. Led by the remarkable efforts of Megan Robertson, campaign director of Freedom Indiana, community leaders rallied to spare the state an expensive and embarrassing referendum next year over the gay marriage amendment. This confrontation would have pitted Indiana against self-righteous conservatives preaching bigotry while ducking under the cloak of God’s glory. 

The battle was won. We should be proud of all of the soldiers in this campaign.  Offending language was removed from the proposed constitutional amendment and what remains of this toxic assault on human rights can be dealt with another day.  Narrow-minded, homophobic politicians were chased back into their corner—for now. 

The war is winnable. The gay marriage amendment should become a non-starter when it comes before the 2015 Legislature as required to place it before voters in 2016. The trend line of support for gay marriage is steep. The onrushing tide of our youth undoubtedly will make it even more difficult for any legislator who pays attention to his district or his children to vote in favor of this amendment, and when and if it comes up for a referendum, more and more citizens will join the cause. Hopefully we will still have Robertson to lead us. 

The Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis Business Journal supported and chronicled these efforts. Joining the quest were the Indy Chamber; many of our educational institutions, including Indiana and Ball State universities; major employers, including Cummins and Eli Lilly and IU Health; the tech industry, led by Angie’s List; Mayor Greg Ballard and many local religious leaders. I am not aware of any central Indiana businesses that publicly supported this vile amendment.

We might have expected vigorous participation from the corporate community. The coordinated effort on the statewide smoking ban, also a win for humanity, reduced health-care costs and absenteeism and saved lives. It was a harbinger of what was to come. The smoking ban and the gay marriage battles were illustrative of the fact that our corporate executives share with the community not only their pocketbooks but also their leadership, when necessary, to support critical issues of the day.

Our execs should be emboldened to tackle the next challenge—whatever that might be. Perhaps they can sponsor a viable candidate to replace State Sen. Mike Delph, a pariah in his own party who is reminiscent of foot-in-mouth U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. Delph’s election bid should meet the same fate. Perhaps opportunities await to replace other office holders with people of greater goodness.

It also is time to bring weight to bear on public safety. Actually, it’s past time. Move over, Gary. Indianapolis is rapidly becoming the murder capital of the world. Raging crime is an issue fraught with dire consequences for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and anyone in the community attempting to hire employees, land conventions or establish new businesses. City leadership appears to be floundering.

In this decade we celebrate our bicentennial, the 200th birthday of the state of Indiana. What will we tell the world in 2016 about our Hoosier nation? What will we proudly enter in a time capsule for celebrants of Indiana’s tricentennial? We can boast that when vital issues arose—issues of diversity, kindness and human rights—leadership from all sectors shared their resources, time and treasure to ensure that this state will welcome all citizens.

There is more to accomplish. If we destroy what remains of the outrageous marriage amendment, we can trumpet that in the last years of our second century, Indiana—a state once the hotbed of the Ku Klux Klan, a state that did not correct itself on miscegenation laws until the 1960s—arose and dealt the remaining vestiges of its legacy of bigotry a decisive defeat. I am proud of what we accomplished so far. Congratulations to us all.•

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Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal.  His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.

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