Bookmark and Share

"We Don't Need An Amendment"

I have received many questions from United Methodists about the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Indiana, known as House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6). People have asked, “What is the position of our United Methodist Church on this issue?” Of course the only official group which can speak for all United Methodists is our General Conference, and they have not dealt specifically with HRJ-6, but the General Conference has included in our Social Principles two affirmations which speak to these issues: (1) our UMC affirms that marriage is "between a man and a woman,” and (2) our UMC affirms the need for all persons to have equal civil rights. These two affirmations cause me to advise that HJC-6 is not something which United Methodists should support. Here are my reasons:

  1. The state of Indiana already has a law on the books affirming that marriage is one man and one woman, so we don't need a constitutional amendment on that same topic. I tend to be more “conservative” and I believe that we should avoid unnecessary amendments in our state’s constitution.
  2. The second sentence of the proposed amendment is very problematic, because it would deny equal civil rights to a variety of individuals (not just same-gender couples), and thus the amendment would be an intrusion into the private lives of our citizens. It is for this reason that so many universities (including all three of our United Methodist-related universities here in Indiana), businesses, and other civic groups in Indiana oppose this amendment. It goes too far beyond defining marriage, and it eliminates civil rights for persons in a variety of legal partnerships. Whether or not we Christians approve of such legal partnerships, we do not need the government to start eliminating the civil rights of anyone.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, I do not want the State of Indiana or any other governmental unit to define the meaning of marriage for those of us who are Christians and United Methodists. We only want the state to defend the civil rights of all persons, and we don't need the state to define marriage for us in its constitution. I prefer that the government stay out of the way and not interfere with our religious freedoms, definitions and practices.

So, while I cannot speak for the General Conference or our whole denomination, my own advice is that HRJ-6 is a bad idea and not worthy of the Indiana General Assembly spending time and energy on it. If HRJ-6 were to pass this legislature, then it would go to the citizens of Indiana for a referendum, and I can only imagine how ugly that might become with lots of outside political groups (on all sides of this issue) deluging our state with ads and activities. We don't need that.

We do need to have serious discussions about the meaning of marriage, about the problems of divorce and infidelity among heterosexuals, and about the issue of homosexuality – but let's have that discussion in a serious and theological manner. Debating a problematic and politically-charged constitutional amendment is not the way to have those discussions.