Why is embassy safety responsibility of State Department?

Some of the U.S. officials involved in protecting our diplomats in Libya apparently believed that the United States was basking in the revolutionary glow of the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.

That glow turned into a raging inferno of violence Sept. 11 that claimed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

An independent panel blamed the deaths on poor security preparations, a lack of trained personnel at the Benghazi consulate and a reliance on Libyan militias to provide security.

Four State Department officials were removed or resigned, including the head of security.

The bigger question is whether the State Department, whose culture is one of openness and engagement, should even be responsible for protecting Americans abroad.

Is the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, with 34,000 employees protecting 275 missions around the world, miscast in a role that could be led by the military?

For now, State Department officials want more money and promise to do a better job on security. The Pentagon is not likely to volunteer for a new mission of protecting embassies when it is trying to draw down forces from overseas.

The protection of American diplomats is only likely to become more difficult, however. Our diplomats should be focused on carrying out U.S. policy by being deeply engaged in the countries where they are based.

Somebody has to have their backs.

— Evansville Courier & Press

No need to amend Indiana’s constitution

Hoosier voters could vote in 2014 on a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. The Indiana General Assembly should prevent this vote from happening.

Indiana law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The debate is on whether to spell this out in the Indiana Constitution to make the law more difficult to reverse.

Public opinion on gay marriage has evolved rapidly in recent years.

Let the debate over same-sex marriage continue, weighing the pros and cons of legalization and of continuing Indiana’s current ban.

The Howey/DePauw Battleground Poll, conducted just before the Nov. 6 election, found Hoosiers are almost evenly split on the constitutional amendment. The poll was cosponsored by The Times Media Company.

A Nov. 12-24 Ball State University poll found 54 percent of Hoosiers opposed the constitutional amendment, compared with 38 percent who support it.

Nationally, 48 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage while 43 percent oppose it, according to the results of Pew Research Centers polls released this year.

Lame duck Gov. Mitch Daniels said recently he wouldn’t comment on the proposed constitutional amendment but that a family headed by a same-sex couple “sure beats single parenthood.”

Daniels is the Republican fiscal conservative who famously urged the GOP to declare a social truce and focus on fiscal issues.

His successor, Gov.-elect Mike Pence, has been a strong opponent of same-sex marriage but said he would defer to the leaders in the General Assembly on that issue. “Now is the time for Hoosiers to focus on getting this economy moving,” Pence said.

To put this issue before the voters in 2014, the General Assembly would have to vote in favor of the constitutional amendment in either 2013 or 2014.

Even as Indiana’s constitutional amendment is being considered, though, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Dec. 7 to review two cases related to same-sex marriage. The court’s ruling could affect Indiana’s existing law.

Even if it doesn’t, constitutional amendments should be rare. This is not one of those exceptions. There’s no need to amend the Constitution to accomplish what state law already provides.

— The Times, Munster

Same-sex marriage ban should be rejected

The American people have been shifting in their views of same-sex marriage for some time now, and the evolution of public opinion is clearly moving toward more tolerance, even acceptance. The trend is heartening. Denying same-sex couples the legal opportunity to wed is not something with which our government should be involved.

Involved, however, it is. Currently, there is a federal Defense of Marriage of Act, although the Obama administration has made it clear it views the law as unconstitutional.

What’s more, Indiana has its own ban on same-sex marriage, and there is an effort to get the prohibition placed into the state’s constitution. An attempt to amend Indiana’s constitution has already passed the required first of two consecutive sessions of the Legislature. If it passes again either in the 2013 or 2014 sessions, it will then go to voters in the fall of 2014 for approval or rejection.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme  Court announced recently that it will hear matters related to same-sex marriage, with a ruling coming as soon as this summer. Depending on the court’s decision — which will be close, probably 5-4, either way — the future of government involvement in same-sex marriage could be set.

Because of the uncertainty that hangs over the Supreme Court cases, the Indiana General Assembly’s best approach in 2013 is to leave it alone. There is simply no reason to risk the political acrimony, or to waste time and resources, fighting over an issue that could be rendered moot by the high court in a few months.

Setting this issue aside will take little more than a small dose of common sense. Fortunately, there are those in the legislature’s super majority of Republicans stepping up to provide the type of leadership needed to deal appropriately with the matter.

State Sen. Luke Kenley, a proponent of putting the same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution the last time it came up in 2011, will oppose it if it comes up this time. He still describes himself as a supporter of traditional marriage, but he now doesn’t believe placing such a ban in the constitution is a good idea. The powerful chair of the Senate’s appropriations committee acknowledges public opinion is “rapidly evolving” in favor of same-sex marriage.

“I really value the institution of heterosexual marriage,” Kenley said recently. “But I do not think that putting a statement in the constitution which runs down or is bigoted toward people who have a different kind of loving relationship, that I may not understand, is going to be productive.”

Kenley may still not be part of the majority, but his shift is important. He is clearly a leader of stature and influence. That he would show the type of political courage necessary to bring about major changes of attitude on such an emotional topic will certainly give others pause and perhaps bring them to reconsider their own long-held positions.

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.

If the proposed constitutional ban is proposed in this next legislative session, we urge the Wabash Valley’s delegation to adopt the common-sense approach. Vote no on the constitutional ban and allow the issue to continue its evolution.

— Tribune Star, Terre Haute

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