Valpo Advisory Council Supports Mayor’s Stance on HJR-6

With support from Freedom America, the Valparaiso Advisory Human Relations Council on Tuesday voted to express support to Mayor Jon Costas regarding his stance in opposition to HJR-6.

Earlier Tuesday, Mayor Costas had joined forces with 11 other mayors from around the state of Indiana to stand against HJR-6, which would add language to the state constitution defining marriage only as a union between one man and one woman. Mayor Costas, a conservative, opposes the amendment on the grounds that government should remain limited and this issue does not need added to the state’s constitution.

Tuesday night, the Advisory Council met at City Hall to hear a presentation by Bob Blum, a representative from Freedom Indiana. The organization has been travelling throughout the state encouraging municipalities and corporations to oppose HJR-6 as a way of supporting civil liberties.

“My original ‘ask’ was that the council would advise the mayor to come out against [HJR-6],” Blum said during his presentation. “But he’s already done it. The second part of the ‘ask’ would be to advise the mayor to strongly encourage Representative (Ed) Soliday and Senator (Ed) Charbonneau to come out against it.”

Both Soliday and Charbonneau voted in support of HJR-6 in 2011, when the legislation was initially approved in both houses.

After some discussion, the council agreed that it was likely both Soliday and Charbonneau are aware of Mayor Costas’ stance on HJR-6. Instead, the motion was made to formally support the mayor and his stance opposing the legislation.

In discussing the motion, no council member presented verbal support of HJR-6. Most, in fact, verbally opposed the legislation.

However, while saying he did not support HJR-6, one council member mentioned he wished the mayor would have stayed neutral on the topic.

Other council members disagreed with the idea of neutrality, including Valparaiso Law School administrator Zahra Nwabara.

“I think we have to stand and say something,” Nwabara said. “If you’re going to be neutral, it’s almost like allowing things to move forward. Especially if you don’t agree with something, you’ve got to take a stand.”

HJR-6 has faced a greater amount of opposition recently than when it was introduced on 2011 for a variety of reasons, Blum said, most notably that same-sex marriage is now legal in 16 states including Illinois.

Among those voicing opposition to HJR-6 are universities and corporations, who fear losing out on potential talent if Indiana is seen as unfriendly or unattractive. Eli Lilly and Cummins have both publicly opposed the legislation, Blum explained.

Others wonder if it is advisable to invest resources in the legislation. If HJR-6 passed in Indiana but the United State Supreme Court rules that gay marriage is a constitutional right, it would overturn the Indiana decision, according to Valparaiso University Law professor Ivan Bodensteiner.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a statute or in the (state) constitution,” Bodensteiner said. “If the Supreme Court decides marriage is a constitutional right, it goes out the window.”

Taking into account the various reasons presented, the council voted on the motion to support the mayor’s opposition to HJR-6. The motion carried.

Blum said he did not have a feel for how the state is leaning regarding HJR-6, but added he feels strong momentum opposing the legislation in Northwestern Indiana.

“There are people who, three years ago, voted for this because there were very few voices against,” Blum said. “I think people are finding those voices and finding out they’re not alone in their opposition.”

HJR-6 could possibly be considered by the state legislature during the session starting Jan. 6, 2014. That session must end by March 14, 2014. If HJR-6 is approved for a second time during the session, the legislation will be on the ballot in Nov. 2014 to be approved or rejected by the majority of Indiana voters.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the Advisory Human Relation Council carried a motion to encourage Mayor Costas to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr., Day with some sort of ceremony or event. The council will meet again on Jan. 28, 2014.

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