Thursday, January 16, 2014

Are Advocates of Indiana's Anti-Same Sex Marriage Amendment Hurting the Pro-Life Cause?

Over the years, I have found myself often aligned with the views of Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana and Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute.  They and their organizations have done great work in promoting an agenda that protects religious liberty, the family, and the sanctity of human life.

Both Clark and Smith have been outspoken advocates of HJR-3, an amendment that would write into Indiana's Constitution the statutory ban on same sex marriage.  Contrary to the claims of many opponents of the measure, I have no doubt that Clark and Smith are motivated by a belief that same sex marriage would undermine traditional marriage.
Micah Clark, Executive
Director, American Family
Association of Indiana

I agree with Clark and Smith that traditional marriage is a critical building block of society and needs to be protected.  Marriage encourages monogamous relationships as well as personal, moral and legal commitments that are vitally important for a stable society.   In recognition of the important role marriage plays, our government provides benefits for those who choose to make this ultimate commitment in life.

It is exactly because I believe in traditional marriage that I don't want people to be excluded from being able to participate in the institution.  I don't know if homosexuality is a result of genetics or environment, or quite possibly some unknown combination of the two.  But I certainly don't think that people who gravitate toward same sex relationships are thumbing their nose at the majority of society who desire heterosexual unions.  We are all made in God's image, including homosexuals.

Over the course of the last several months, the criticism of Clark and Smith for their position has become increasingly vitriolic.  I have heard numerous people refer to the organizations they lead as "hate groups."  Given the body of work those organizations have done, it is a very unfair charge.  Yet I am growing increasingly concerned that the charges for many people will stick and it will undermine those organization's larger political agenda, one of which is the pro-life cause
Curt Smith,
Executive Director,
Indiana Family Institute

There are many pro-life people though who actually support same sex marriage.  Many of those people see it as a civil rights issue involving similar moral issues involved in the same sex marriage debate.  But when two of the leading organizations supporting pro-life causes takes on an issue that could forever tarnish those organizations, then that also hurts the pro-life cause.

The long-term polling on same sex marriage is clear.  Support for same sex marriage is soaring and shows no sign of abating.  What's more there is a huge generational divide on the issue.  Younger people support same sex marriage by huge margins.  Older people who oppose it are dying off.  Even if same sex marriage opponents succeed in passing SJR-3, they are going to lose long-term. The only issue is when.

The polling on abortion is completely different. Measuring public opinion on abortion is admittedly tricky as the responses can vary widely depending on how you phrase the question.   But there is a clear majority that doesn't support the legal requirement of abortion on demand through viability, which is the status of the current law under Roe v. Wade and its progeny.  When you look at the polls you will also find support for the pro-life position has remained steady and even slightly increased over the years.  Also, some polls show younger people increasingly supportive of the pro-life position.

While the position against same sex marriage appears to be tethered inextricably to religion, religion is not the motivating force for many people who oppose abortion.  In fact, there are atheist and agnostic organizations that actively oppose abortion.  For those people their position is based on the undeniable medical facts of pre-natal human life, facts which have become much better known to non-medical people as a result of the invention of the sonogram.  Contrary to the claims of pro-choice advocates, the issue is a lot more complicated than what a woman should be able to do with her own body.  Rather the issue is how do you weigh the undeniable fact of pre-natal life with the issues of autonomy for the woman carrying that life?  Foolishly the United States Supreme Court has tried to dictate the answer to the question instead of allowing the political system to reach compromises on the subject.

Again, I don't doubt Clark and Smith's sincerity in their battle on HJR-3.  But at some point, I think they need to ask themselves if their advocacy on the issue is not risking their organizations' larger goals, including the pro-life political agenda.

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