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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Sexual Orientation panel wrap
Posted 9:20 PM by Luke
IU Law - Indianapolis was the host this evening of a panel discussion entitled, "Sexual Orientation and Family Status." The discussion included law professors, undergrad professors, pastors, attorneys, and a United States Congressman, and was attended by law students and members of the Indianapolis legal community, together numbering in the hundreds.

Touched off by a question from moderator and IU law professor Mary Mitchell asking the panelists to compare the debate around same-sex marriage with the debate that surrounded interracial marriage in past years, the discussion moved swiftly to a legal and historical debate about the legitimacy of same-sex marriage.

Representative John Hostettler, a Republican representing Indiana's 8th Congressional district and author of the Marriage Protection Act which, if passed, would have removed from the courts' jurisdiction matters dealing with the Defense of Marriage Act, placed the discussion in the expected gravity by beginning his remarks with the statement that "marriage is the cornerstone of our society.

To Hostettler's left was the Reverend Jeff Miner, who leads the midwest's largest gay congregation, here in Indianapolis. Miner warned against Congress's actions to remove gay marriage from the courts' jurisdiction. He stated that such a majoritarian tactic could later result in a backlash: "Conservative Christian groups could be facing a pay day. What if fifty years from now, a majority tried to classify these groups' preaching about homosexuality as hate speech?"

Representative Hostettler staunchly defended Congress's power to regulate the courts' jurisdiction, citing the Constitution, but no precedent of legislation similar to the Marriage Protection Act. Reverend Miner stressed the role of the independent judiciary and the want of the nation's founders to protect against a "tyranny of the majority."

The discussion also dealt shortly with the difference between same-sex marriage and civil unions. Contrary to the assertions of President Bush and many other Republican leaders, Rep. Hostettler stated, "With regards to gay marriage and gay civil unions, as far as the government is concerned, there is no difference." Experts in the legal community disagree on whether the Federal Marriage Amendment, and its similar counterpart in Indiana, ban just same-sex marriage or also civil unions.

In concluding remarks, Dr. Kenneth Falk legal director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union said, "In the big picture, who cares? I don't see how defending a gay couple's right to marry devalues my own marriage to my wife. In fifty years, people are going to look back on us, just as we now look back on Indiana's inter-racial marriage ban."

For a full list of the panel's speakers, with bios, click here...

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