Michael Simpson: Republicans need broader, inclusive view to grow

DEBATE QShould the Indiana Republican Party change its definitions of marriage and families?

simpson-michael-sigOn June 9, I proudly stood before 1,493 fellow delegates to the Indiana Republican Convention in Evansville to support and defend the “strong families” language presented in a draft of the party’s 2018 platform.

That draft language, which was eventually overturned by the convention, sought to acknowledge contemporary realities by scrubbing a narrow definition of what constitutes a “strong family” and replacing it with a broader and more inclusive view of our fast-paced and changing world.

While the differences between the approved 2016 language and the draft 2018 language were rather minor to some, one distinct difference made it important, in my view, to support updating.

The 2016 language stated that “strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.” Quite frankly, this rubs me the wrong way. Personally, I firmly support marriage between a man and a woman—ask my wife!—but I also think it’s wrong to define “strong families” in such an exclusive way.

Hoosier families are more varied and diverse than just a few decades ago. For instance, grandparents are raising their grandchildren because the children’s parents have succumbed to the opioid-abuse crisis. Single parents, such as a widow of a fallen police officer or of a service member killed overseas, are raising children on their own. Aunts, uncles, sometimes even friends, have become the guardians of children; and blended families are more and more common. Many of these Hoosier non-traditional families are amazingly “strong.”

While these are not always the ideal circumstances in which to raise a child, they are the reality of today and, as a political party, we are behind the times if we don’t recognize that reality. I think it’s amazing that so many of the people I mentioned above are willing and able to raise children in non-traditional formats.

Of course, the media took the debate a step further and claimed the draft language was meant to tacitly support same-sex marriage through the phrase “loving adults.” The media needed a controversy and, in my mind, created one on their own. There are two problems with this narrative.

First, having spoken to members of the Platform Committee and Indiana Republican Party leadership, it’s clear to me this was never the case. Rather, it was all about respecting the changing face of Indiana. Furthermore, the phrase “loving adults” was in the 2016 language that was ultimately swapped back into the document.

Second, in being more inclusive rather than exclusive, the 2018 language also listed as the very first supported family structure “traditional families with a mother and father”—which is just another way of saying traditional marriage.

To be clear, I respect the will of my fellow delegates and fully support the adopted platform language, but I still wish the vote would have gone the other way. Again, the media description that the voice vote was “overwhelmingly” in favor of the old language is exaggerated. Hundreds of delegates across the room sided with the draft, but they were simply drowned out by a louder chorus.

The 2018 language, in my view, was the best path forward for our party and the best way for us to grow. I hope we’ll get there one day—for the future of our party and our state.•

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Simpson is chairman of the Porter County Republican Party.

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