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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. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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