By Paula Schlueter Ross
LCMS Indiana District President Rev. Daniel P. May and LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison are working together to strengthen — and safeguard — traditional marriage in Indiana.
Both Synod leaders have signed a letter that asks Lutherans in Indiana to encourage their state legislators to vote in favor of House Joint Resolution 6, or HJR6, which would amend the state constitution to prohibit future legislatures from passing laws that would allow same-sex couples to marry or that would provide legal protections for such marriages.
The bill is expected to be before Indiana legislators as early as mid-January 2014. If it passes in both the state House of Representatives and Senate, the measure will be on the ballot in November 2014 for the state’s registered voters to approve. If it wins the popular vote, the amendment will be added to the Indiana state constitution.
Indiana already has a law that limits marriage to one man-one woman relationships. “The concern,” says May, “is that a judge could overturn the law and declare it unconstitutional.”
But “an Indiana constitutional amendment” — which is being proposed by the HJR6 bill — “would be stronger and much more difficult to overturn,” he told Reporter.
In Utah, for example, gay marriage became legal on Dec. 20, 2013, when a U.S. district judge ruled that the state’s gay-marriage ban violated gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional rights. (The U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on that decision on Jan. 6, 2014, pending the state’s appeal of the ruling.)
Indiana is one of 33 states that ban same-sex marriage; in 17 states, gay marriage is legal.
In their letter — which is expected to be shared with all LCMS pastors in Indiana by Jan. 10 — May and Harrison acknowledge that “supporters of same-sex marriage are overwhelming our legislators with calls and emails, while the legislators have heard little from those who support traditional marriage.
“Our message needs to be strong,” they write. “As Christians, we know that marriage matters. It matters because God instituted marriage as one man and one woman. Our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed this view, and even more, marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church. … marriage is a gift from God, and it deserves our support.”
Calling gay marriage “a vital issue of religious freedom,” the letter cites the situation in Illinois, where “pro-gay marriage legislation has not only mandated support for gay adoption, but the state now refuses to license any adoption agency which on religious or conscience grounds cannot participate in such adoptions.
“We have lost our [Lutheran] agency there,” May and Harrison note. “This is the tip of the iceberg, as a variety of lobbyists seek to normalize same-sex marriage and drive any conscience-bound opposition from the public discussion.”
The letter also calls attention to related resources:
- a bulletin insert that explains the concern over HJR6 and suggests how Lutherans in Indiana can help get the bill passed.
- a sample letter Lutherans in Indiana can use to contact their senators and representatives, asking them to support HJR6.
- a list of Indiana legislators, with their phone numbers and email addresses. Also available is a link to an online resource that’s designed to help Indiana residents find the names of their senators and representatives.
All of the resources are free and may be found on the Synod’s “Religious Liberty: Free to be Faithful” website.
May told Reporter that the HJR6 letter and resources “demonstrate the solidarity of the church at-large,” both at the national and district levels, and said he is hoping many others will support those efforts.
“A few months ago it looked like the bill would pass without much trouble — now it appears to be a toss-up,” he said, adding that there also is a “possibility that it will be shelved.”
Said May: “It is important for us as citizens of the state of Indiana to speak to social issues of this import and yet we are well aware that we need to be more consistent in our honoring of marriage.
“Regardless of what happens with this effort, the church will need to be a strong ‘light’ in the midst of darkness. As we proclaim the Gospel and share the whole counsel of God’s Word, we are witnesses. The way we live our lives and practice Christian marriage in our personal lives is the strongest witness.
“Even if we are able to encourage this amendment, we are well aware of the cultural shifts that are going the wrong way. Hopefully, this will be a sharing of God’s will rather than man’s.”