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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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