A proposed amendment to Indiana’s Constitution that would ban same sex marriages in the Hoosier State has prompted a letter from five Indiana Roman Catholic Bishops, that stopped just short of endorsing the amendment.
Church officials said the statement isn’t intended to stake out a political position, but to inform people about Catholic teachings as they weigh the issue. Indiana is home to 747,706 Roman Catholics.
Archbishop Tobin said that the bishops have been discussing the possibility of making a statement on these issues since August. He also noted that it is important that the bishops speak as one.
This statement, Tobin said, will help Indiana Catholics avoid the extremes of either seeing the public debate about the proposed amendment as a battle or as an issue in which they should simply be guided by public polls.
“Instead, we bishops struggle to allow the great questions and concerns of our people to be illumined by the word of God and the lived experience of Christians for two millennia,” Archbishop Tobin said.
“People have the right to make their own decisions on these issues, but it needs to be done with an informed conscience,” said Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Archdiocese.
Amendments to Indiana’s constitution are voted upon in a ballot measure only after they are approved by two separately elected legislatures.
The resolution was passed by both the Indiana Senate and Indiana House of Representatives in 2011. For it to become a ballot measure for the 2014 general election, it will need to be passed without change by a simple majority in both bodies during the upcoming session.
Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference—the official public policy voice of the Church in Indiana regarding state and national matters—spoke about the possibility of HJR 6 passing both the Indiana House and Senate.
He expects the proposed state constitutional amendment will be given consideration in committees of both legislative bodies and that committee passage of it will be “likely.”
“Whether it passes the floor in both houses is yet to be seen,” said Tebbe.
Tebbe explained that no other state is currently considering a constitutional amendment related to marriage. Because of that, he said, “Indiana will be a focal point for the nation on this issue” in the coming months.
This attention, Tebbe said, will influence the debate on the proposed amendment.
“We’re going to be the eye of the storm,” he said. “And so it’s bound to have an impact. There are going to be tons of pro and con literature, ads, articles—you name it.”
Tebbe said that the debate on the nature of marriage has a history of raising people’s emotions and that the bishops’ statement can encourage people in Indiana to consider it calmly.
“They’re making a statement that this is a complex issue that has to be dealt with in a very thoughtful and serious manner,” Tebbe said. “It’s not an easy, knee-jerk kind of reaction. There is clearly one definition of marriage under God’s laws. There is clearly the importance of each individual being made in the image and likeness of God, and is deserving of the respect and dignity that that person embodies through that divine creation.”
He encouraged Catholics in Indiana to consider both parts of the bishops’ statement—the affirmation of the dignity of all people and the dignity of marriage.
“We have to really keep in mind both pieces,” Tebbe said. “We’re not castigating anybody. We’re not trying to discriminate against anyone. We’re upholding the dignity of marriage, what marriage is as an institution, and its value for society, to the family and the persons engaged in it.”