RICH JAMES: Opposing gay marriage hurts pro-business reputation

2013-08-25T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Opposing gay marriage hurts pro-business reputationBy Rich James nwitimes.com
August 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Remember former Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Republican majority in the House and Senate talking about how making Indiana a right-to-work state would have employers pouring across the state line?

Although Republicans rammed through that anti-union law, it doesn’t seem like anyone is rushing in to hang out the help-wanted signs. To the contrary, state labor statistics show Hoosier hiring to be stagnant.

While right-to-work was supposed to make Indiana more employer-friendly, the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage seemingly sends the opposite message.

Perhaps it will be an ego boost for Gov. Mike Pence and his Republican brethren to say that gays and lesbians aren’t welcome here.

But, just as the GOP-controlled Legislature is gearing up to pass the gay-marriage ban for the second time, setting up the call for a state referendum – the worm turns.

You’ve just got to love it.

As much as the Republicans say they are doing all they can to make Indiana the most business-friendly state in America, two of the state’s largest companies want an immediate end to the proposal to add a gay-marriage ban to the constitution.

Both Eli Lilly and Co., the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant, and Cummins Inc., the Columbus-based engine manufacturer, are working against the attack on gay marriage.

And, interestingly enough, the two firms are major backers of Republicans in Indiana.

Lilly executive Rob Smith said last week that if the constitutional change is approved, the company won’t be able to recruit the talent it needs to develop drugs that improve lives.

“Our values and our commitment to diversity require us to take a stand in opposing this amendment,” Smith said after a statewide rally last week.

Interestingly, Republican Megan Robertson – formerly of Portage – is managing the grass-roots Freedom Indiana campaign to stop the marriage ban.

She said, “Indiana has always been a welcoming community known for our Hoosier hospitality. This amendment directly contradicts the reputation that has helped us recruit jobs and economic investment for our state.”

Chris Paulsen, president of Indiana Equality Action, a gay rights group, added, “This amendment permanently threatens liberty for all Hoosiers and sends the message that our state is an unwelcoming place that values neither freedom nor fairness.”

Pence and the majority of his legislative Republicans can be a sanctimonious lot when it comes to social issues.

The same can be said when it comes to making life more difficult for unions in Indiana.

Today they have wiggled themselves into a corner.

Republicans embraced right-to-work as an employment panacea.

Lilly and others are saying the marriage ban will have the opposite impact – blocking them from hiring some of the best and brightest.

You can’t have it both ways.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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