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Bars discussing marriage amendment, but cautious about taking a stance

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Among the nearly 13,000 members of the Indiana State Bar Association, views on the proposed marriage amendment are falling into three separate camps: those who think the association should publicly support it, those who think the association should publicly oppose it and those who think the association should refrain from taking a position at all.

The specter of a bar association taking a public stance on such a charged political issue was increased Monday when the Indianapolis Bar Association announced its opposition to the proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Following a survey of its members and internal discussions, the Indy Bar took a position against the amendment, HJR 3 and the companion legislation, House Bill 1153.

Whether any other bar association in Indiana will make a public statement on the amendment is unknown. However, a sampling of some associations around the state found a reluctance to speak out on social issues such as this.

“There are significant issues that this raises – political, religious, economic and public policy issues in addition to legal issues,” state bar president Jim Dimos said of the marriage amendment. “It’s hard to strike the right balance for representing and serving all the members of the association.”

The state bar has not turned a blind eye to the matter. Last year, two existing committees examined the amendment. One committee reached the conclusion that the association should oppose the measure while the other committee advocated against the bar taking any stance.

Instead of submitting competing resolutions during the October 2013 House of Delegates meeting, both committees decided to withdraw their respective proposals.

Since then, the ISBA has appointed a special committee, chaired by Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor Joel Schumm, which is tasked with monitoring HJR 3 as it moves through the Statehouse this session.

“Much like the fact that the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce took a position on HJR 3 while the Indiana Chamber of Commerce did not, the IBA and the ISBA have different constituencies and both organizations need to serve their members as the respective boards see fit,” Dimos said.

The state bar president added he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for the Indy Bar and he is sure the board of managers gave the matter considerable thought and reached the decision that it believes was in the best interests of the membership.

Since the Indianapolis Bar made its announcement, Scott Wylie, president of the Evansville Bar Association, has received some phone calls from local attorneys, asking if the association was going to take a position.

Like the state bar committees, Wylie said EBA members have expressed two primary views: vigorously oppose the amendment or do not to get involved.

Among those opposed to the amendment, he has been hearing a nuanced position. Some members are against the proposal because they have doubts about enshrining legislation into the state constitution. They see putting a ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution as similar to moving punishment for a gun crime or methamphetamine offense into the state’s founding document.  

Traditionally, Wylie said, the Evansville bar does not get involved in political issues. He compared the association’s level of discretion on highly political matters to that of a family who chooses not to discuss certain topics over Thanksgiving dinner.
 
Given the very collegial nature of the association, Wylie emphasized he wants to be cautious and thoughtful. Before taking any position as an association, he said, as the bar president he would want to engage the members, perhaps through a survey like the Indy Bar conducted, to get their feelings and views.  

“I applaud the Indianapolis Bar, as a membership organization, for investing the resources they invested to engage their members,” Wylie said.

The EBA plans to discuss the marriage amendment at its monthly meeting Feb. 13. Also, the family law section has been asked to examine the amendment to determine how the proposal would potentially impact certain statutes.

Social issues are something the Allen County Bar Association also has traditionally not taken positions on, according to the bar’s president, Allen Superior Court Judge David Avery.

“To keep the collegiality in the bar, you just don’t need issues like that that bring out the difference in the individuals,” he said.

The Allen County bar’s board of directors has not been discussing the marriage issue nor have any members pushed the association to take a stance, Avery said.

“Personally, I don’t see it as the bar’s place,” Avery said. He noted he was speaking about the Allen County bar and did not have a problem with other bar associations taking a position on the amendment.
 

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  1. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  2. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  3. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  4. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  5. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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