The conservative Indiana group Advance America — not to be confused with the payday lender of the same name — is leading the charge to pass the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage group, employing some outlandish claims to reach its goal. A profile by the Indy Star highlights some of the materials the group has published over the past few months, including a church bulletin insert warning of the following four “dangers of same-sex marriage”:
1. Beginning in kindergarten, schools would be required to teach children that homosexual marriages are normal and acceptable and the same as heterosexual marriages.
2. A Pastor that preaches what the Bible says about homosexuality could be prosecuted as a criminal under a hate crime law resulting in jail and fines.
3. The next step would be to legalize “gender identity” which would give men who dress as women legal access to women’s restrooms and women’s dressing rooms.
4. Christian businesses could be fined and sued if they refuse to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies (ex. bakers, florists, catering halls, photographers, etc.).
According to the Indy Star, the Indiana Family Institute, another conservative group supporting the amendment, believes all of these claims are “fair” and demonstrate “logical consequences.” All four claims, however, fail on their face.
Marriage law does not dictate curriculum, so no change in marriage law would impact what kindergartners are taught. Regardless of whether marriage equality passes — which isn’t even on the table right now because state law still bans same-sex marriage — there are same-sex families raising children who go to Indiana schools. Advance America’s objection to acknowledging the normality of these families does not account for their actual visibility.
Hate crimes laws only apply to behaviors that are already designated as crimes, so no speech would ever be impacted. The Indy Star notes that Eric Miller, head of Advance America, has campaigned heavily against hate crimes protections based on sexual orientation for many years. In that regard, he’s been successful, because Indiana doesn’t even have such a law. If constitutionally codified discrimination is rejected, it will impact neither hate crime laws nor the freedom of speech — for pastors or anybody else.
Gender identity is not something that is currently illegal, which is a good thing considering that everybody has a gender identity. Advance America seems to be referring to people who are transgender — offensively so, given trans individuals are people who present as the gender they identity with, not “men who dress as women” — but being trans isn’t illegal either. Unfortunately, nor is it very well protected. Indiana offers absolutely no nondiscrimination protections based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, which means it’s still perfectly legal for LGBT people to be fired, denied housing, or refused access to a public accommodation just because of their identity. Advance America seems to want to prevent LGBT people from having any shred of equality, through marriage, nondiscrimination protections, or otherwise.
Lastly, marriage law has little to do with whether businesses treat all customers equal under the law. In other cases where professionals lost in court after denying service to same-sex couples, like the New Mexico photographer or Colorado cake shop, those states have laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Incidentally, neither New Mexico nor Colorado actually have marriage equality, thereby debunking Advance America’s claim. Given Indiana doesn’t even have such protections and none exist at the federal level, there is nothing to prevent Christian businesses in Indiana from continuing to discriminate against the gay community.
It’s important to note that the debate over Indiana’s amendment is whether to codify in the constitution that no same-sex union — marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or otherwise — should ever be recognized in the state. Even if that amendment fails to advance, same-sex marriage will remain illegal under state law. Advance America’s scare tactics are not only false, but they also address a false possibility of what might transpire in the state any time soon.