Fight against proposed marriage ban comes to IU South Bend campus

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DeVonte Glass, communications director for the IU South Bend Queer Straight Alliance, was one of the participants in a phone bank opposing HJR-3 in the Grill Jan. 22. (Preface photo/CECELIA ROEDER)
DeVonte Glass, communications director for the IU South Bend Queer Straight Alliance, was one of the participants in a phone bank opposing HJR-3 in the Grill Jan. 22.
(Preface photo/CECELIA ROEDER)

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Gay marriage and related legislature have dominated the headlines recently, with judges in Utah and Oklahoma recently striking down laws prohibiting same-sex marriages. In Virginia, the state attorney general recently dropped support for the current ban on same-sex marriage, saying “I cannot and will not defend a law that violates Virginians’ fundamental constitutional rights.”

Indiana finds itself on the opposite end of this battle with proposed constitutional amendment HJR-3 (formerly known as HJR-6). The bill, which prohibits same sex marriage, is currently making its way through Indiana legislature.

On the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 22, both Freedom Indiana and IU South Bend students, including members of the Queer-Straight Alliance, gathered in the University Grill to partake in a phone bank campaign in opposition of HJR-3.

Freedom Indiana, according to its Facebook page, is a non-profit group comprised of “businesses, faith leaders, civil rights and community organizations, and individuals united to defeat HJR-3.” They aren’t the only group opposed to the amendment. Seven colleges and universities including Indiana University and six city councils including South Bend have also stated their opposition.

Participants in the phone bank acted as middle-men in the process of connecting voters who disagreed with HJR-3 to their legislators. Aimee Mendez, lead organizer in South Bend for Freedom Indiana, explained that they were calling voters in key battleground areas. Phone bank volunteers connected willing voters via phone to their legislatures, where they could leave messages showing their disagreement with HJR-3.

DeVonte Glass, an IUSB student and communications director for the IUSB QSA said he came to the phone bank because he was “very passionate” about the issue at hand.

Not everyone the phone bank reached over the phone disagreed with HJR-3. Glass stated that some of the people they called agreed that gays and lesbians should have hospital visitation rights, yet still did not agree with gay marriage, which he said confuses him.

Amber Letson, another IUSB student, stated that the process has its ups and downs.

“I’ve been here an hour and only gotten one transfer,” she said.

A sentiment many participants of the phone bank echoed was disapproval of amending the state constitution to limit rights rather than give them.

“The constitution is supposed to give rights, not take them away,” Mendez said. “All men are created equal; we’re not second class citizens.”

“To me, the constitution should protect rights,” Letson said.

HJR-3 proposes more than just prohibiting same-sex marriages. Glass explained that gay and lesbian couples weren’t the only ones who had to worry about the bill.

“This affects heterosexual unions as well,” he said.

Language within the bill states that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

This sentence has proven problematic for proponents of the bill, and no one is quite what this would mean for unmarried heterosexual couples.

The sentence has become an issue that has caused some lawmakers to re-think support of the bill. According to the USA Today, Rep. Wendy McNamara stated that the second sentence was her deal-breaker. “If the second sentence remains, I will not support the resolution.”

“Love and freedom don’t belong on a ballot,” Mendez said.

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