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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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