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INBOX: State bar needs to speak up on marriage equality

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Letters to the Editor

Although the ABA itself endorsed marriage equality for gays and lesbians over three years ago, the Indiana Bar Association has failed to follow in the national organization’s footsteps. Given that the state appears poised to entrust the fate of gays’ and lesbians’ equal protection rights to the will of the plebiscite, the bar’s continued silence is indefensible.

It is important to remember that Indiana law currently does not permit gays and lesbians to marry, so taking a stand against the Amendment will not obligate the members of the bar to explicitly support gay marriage. Instead, one key reason why the state bar should oppose HJR6 is that the referendum will alter the state constitution to specifically condemn homosexuals to a form of second class citizenship. Our state constitution is a sacred covenant between our state government and the citizens of the state – one that proscribes the government’s ability to interfere with individual liberties. It is document that should bind us together rather than find ways to separate Hoosiers based on our personal opinions on divisive social issues.

When I moved from Madison, Wisconsin five years ago to Indiana, I moved from a community that had been represented in Congress by an openly gay lesbian to one of Indianapolis’ northern suburbs. In my early weeks here, while sitting in a coffee shop with a female friend, I was the butt of a homophobic slur. While I don’t pretend that Madison was paradise, the slur was an early sign that I had moved into a community with a different cultural climate. I have since found reasons to enjoy living here, but should this Amendment pass, I will actively pursue out of state employment opportunities. While the economic downturn may not immediately permit large numbers of gays and lesbians to leave the state, in the long run, gays and lesbians with a choice of opportunities will undoubtedly avoid staying in or moving to what is perceived as hostile territory.

While some may argue that the bar should stay out of politics, when political issues threaten to impair the state of justice in Indiana, the bar cannot remain silent. Despite the fact that the profession is often the subject of parody, as members of the profession, attorneys “are officers of the legal system and public citizens who possess special responsibilities for the quality of justice.” (Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct Preamble) By standing on the sidelines and hoping that the legislature will abandon this issue, the bar’s silence is a mark, not of courage and justice, but of cowardice.

Shawn Marie Boyne
Professor of Law
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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