News and Tribune

July 11, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Opinions from other newspapers for July 11

Indiana can do without marriage-ban battle

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings last week concerning same-sex marriage reflects the continuing evolution of American attitudes toward the subject. The court found the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional yet punted away the chance to establish further legal direction to a country still largely divided on the topic. Its subsequent ruling on the California same-sex marriage ban allows a lower court ruling striking down the ban to stand and should indirectly allow gay marriage to resume in the state.

The American people have been shifting in their views of same-sex marriage for some time now, and the shift is clearly moving toward more tolerance, even acceptance. It’s satisfying to see the nation’s high court shifting as well. Denying same-sex couples the legal opportunity to wed is not something with which our government should be involved.

Unfortunately, the court’s actions also allow states to continue to deal with same-sex marriage as they see fit, even if that means banning the practice.

An immediate consequence of the court’s action is that it allows an intense battle over the issue to resume in Indiana.

The state already has a law on the books banning same-sex couples from having the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples. Opponents of same-sex marriage aren’t satisfied with that, and last week’s rulings will embolden them to further seek to entrench their view into Indiana law by placing it in the state constitution.

An attempt to amend Indiana’s constitution has already passed the required first of two consecutive sessions of the Legislature. Lawmakers decided to delay pressing it this year pending the Supreme Court rulings. If they bring it back for the second required vote in the 2014 session and it passes, it will then go to voters in the fall of 2014 for approval or rejection.

In the emotional wake of the court’s rulings, Republican Gov. Mike Pence and socially conservative legislative leaders expressed their desire to press ahead with the marriage-ban amendment next year. We hope their inclination to ignite such an acrimonious and unnecessary political battle will wane as time passes.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Majority Leader David Long should take a deep breath and a long, hard look at this issue before moving forward. Within their own party there is growing concern and opposition to the marriage-ban amendment. Highly respected Republican legislators such as Sen. Luke Kenley of Noblesville and Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany oppose the amendment and warn their leadership and party members that they may well be on the wrong side of history on this issue.

Indeed, recent public opinion polling shows a state almost evenly divided on the issue but support for the amendment clearly declining. Even with Republican super majorities, passage is far from certain. And legal challenges to the amendment if it does pass are virtually assured.

As we have stated before, no one expects Indiana’s elected officials, or even Hoosiers in general, to be leaders in the movement to legalize same-sex marriage. But it is not too much to expect that the state take a more measured approach on the matter and not do something that will end up having to be undone eventually, later if not sooner.

There are more productive ways for Hoosier lawmakers to spend their time in the next legislative session as they take on important issues related to education, job creation and improving infrastructure. Hoisting the flag of a divisive social issue would not be time or energy well spent.

— Tribune Star (Terre Haute)


Indiana still has two school chiefs, one more than it needs

Earlier this week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appointed his special assistant for K-12 and higher education policies, reminding us once again that Indiana has one too many school chiefs. It’s an old issue with this newspaper which believes Indiana does not need both an elected superintendent of public instruction and an appointed chief education adviser to the governor. Our position has nothing to do with the current cast of officials; we urged action decades ago, but to no avail.

Our point was, and is, that Indiana should not have an education adviser appointed by the governor and a separate, elected school superintendent, lest we end up with competing education policies from executives of the opposite political parties.

It never proved much of a problem until last year when Hoosier voters selected a Republican governor and Glenda Ritz, a Democratic school superintendent. It begs the question, who is really in charge of setting education policy in Indiana, the governor and his assistant or the school superintendent.

Of course, once Ritz was elected, there were calls then to make her position an appointed one, but at that point it was too late. It would have appeared to be done for mere politics, and not because of sound policy. Having an appointed school chief, with one policy from a governor and superintendent of the same party remains the best approach, regardless of political party, but we will have to wait.

In the meantime, congratulations to Claire Fiddian-Green, the governor’s new special assistant for education.

— Evansville Courier & Press


State’s reaction too slow on FSSA breach

Security breaches — the kind that send personal information out into the open — are never good. The state’s admission this week that information for more than 187,000 Family and Social Services clients might have been sent out to the wrong people certainly falls into that category.

The state has blamed the problem on a programming error by RCR Technology Corp., a contractor being paid $83.5 million between 2009 and 2017 for document management services.

Critics were quick on the state’s trail.

“If FSSA hadn’t gone contractor crazy after 2005, maybe things like this could be prevented,” John Cardwell, an Indianapolis advocate for the disabled, told The Indianapolis Star’s Mary Beth Schneider. “But that agency has shifted way too many responsibilities out the door to private vendors and has done so in a rush.”

Overseeing contractors that have sensitive information is one thing. But state officials should pay attention to criticism about just how slowly they moved to let people in on what happened.

According to state officials, the error was discovered on May 10, a little more than a month after it occurred. Things were fixed by May 21. So why did it take until July 1 to let the public in on it?

That strategy might put off the embarrassment of a technological blunder. But it gave that information more time than necessary to be used by the wrong hands. The state needs to do better than that.

— Journal and Courier (Lafayette)