Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More on Proposed Marriage Amendment, or Direct Democracy Sucks

No surprise to anyone, but the General Assembly's Senate passed the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage between one man and one woman. You can see the roll call here.

Everyone's favorite local political AM talk radio host (which pretty much narrows it down to one person, but I digress) has spoken out in support of the system we have to get proposed amendments on voting ballots. But I disagree with most efforts of direct democracy, including this one.

Even though various polls have indicated that attitudes to LGBT peoples are changing along generational lines, that's a generational change, and isn't likely to factor into political decisions within the next several years.

It's no secret that young people, who probably have some of the most open attitudes when it comes regarding marriage , are not big on voting. This gives proponents of the proposed amendment a huge advantage, simply because the age demographics of current voting trends are on their side.

Social conservatives have shown that when their issues aren't addressed in campaigns, they simply won't vote. And when their issues are addressed, they come out in droves. There's another advantage to the proponents.

Finally, I think it's easier to be "for" something rather than against, especially when it comes to voting. Those who are for this proposed, discriminatory amendment likely place this high up on their issues of voting. Whereas opponents of the amendment might be opposed to it, but there are issues they prioritize over it.

The opponents of this proposed amendment will have a lot of work cut out for them. It could mean driving people, particularly young people, to the polls in an off-year election. It could mean having to suck up to some of the big corporations that have spoken out against this amendment. They've got a few years to work on a strategy, but you'll need more than rallies at the Indiana Statehouse to defeat this.

EDIT: It has come to my attention that there is some confusion on how a joint resolution becomes an amendment to the Indiana Constitution.

A proposed amendment has to pass two separately elected legislative sessions. This means that the legislators who were voted into office November 2010 can pass a joint resolution in either the 2011 session or 2012 session, and then have to pass an identical resolution in 2013 or 2014. If it passes, it goes to a popular vote as a referendum. If it passes the referendum process, it becomes part of the state constitution. The soonest it could be on the ballot is 2013, though I find it hard to imagine that they'd want to hold it in an off-year election where not even municipal elections would be held. Thus, the likely vote on this, if it makes it to the referendum process, would be the 2014 November midterm elections.

1 comment:

  1. I share your concerns, but with all due respect, this is NOT an example of true direct democracy. This is an example of the legislature proposing a constitutional amendment, which after being approved by the legislature, would need to be approved by popular vote. This is standard operating procedure in virtually every U.S. State. Otherwise, state constitutions would be getting rewritten over and over again without any consent from voters.

    TRUE direct democracy is when an ordinary citizen, like you or me, petitions thousands of signatures to put a legally binding question on the ballot, completely bypassing the legislature. In this sense, Indiana has virtually NOTHING in the way of direct democracy, in fact, it may be dead last among the 50 States in this regard.

    While I strongly oppose this particular amendment*, I am still a strong supporter of true direct democracy in general. Often times, it's the last check we have against indifferent or even malicious politicians. Just witness the current recall movements in Wisconsin, and the efforts in Ohio to get a referendum on its recent union-busting law. Hoosiers ought to be able to do the same, but they can't under current law.

    *I would also add: To see that Indiana is JUST NOW going through the anti-marriage-equality motions, when virtually every other state did all this way back in '04, is mostly a testament to how antiquated and slow-paced Indiana's constitutional system truly is.


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