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By Scott Tibbs, February 6th, 2004

Welch is right on homosexual marriage, but I still won't vote for her

State Representative Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington) is supporting an amendment to Indiana's constitution that would define marriage as an institution between one man and one woman.

Good for Peggy. I'm glad she has the courage to stand up to her party on this issue. Some are complaining that she should not be "forcing" her religious beliefs through public policy, and the tired old refrain about "separation of church and state" is being thrown about. I think people who are saying this misunderstand what "separation of church and state" (a phrase that, again, appears nowhere in the Constitution) means.

Legislators are expected to act on their personal beliefs. When the people of the 60th District sent Welch to Indianapolis in 1998 (and sent her back in 2000 and 2002) they knew she held socially conservative views on issues like abortion and homosexuality, views based on her Christian faith. There is nothing wrong with voting one's conscience on legislation, no matter what those views are based on. The issue of "separation of church and state" should be whether or not a law violates the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Constitutional tests should be applied to the laws themselves, not on the legislator's reasons for voting for those laws.

Voting based on religious principles does not inherently violate anyone's rights. Some may vote for bills enacting protections for the environment based on a belief that we should be "good stewards" of what God has given us. Others may vote for bills expanding government welfare programs based on the belief that we are obligated by God to care for those less fortunate.

Even though I agree with Welch on this issue, I (unlike a lot of Monroe County Republicans) would not vote for her in November. Welch, as a Democrat, supports the House leadership that has gotten Indiana in trouble over the past few years. A vote for Welch is a vote for liberal Democrats to control the Speakership and the committee chairmanships. As I tried to explain to some of my fellow Republicans during the 2000 election, a vote for Welch is a vote for liberal House Majority Leader Mark Kruzan. Kruzan has left the House and found something else to do, but his party still controls it.

This is why Democrats support Welch, even though they disagree with her on social issues. She's the only Democrat who could win the 60th district, which was drawn to maximize Republican votes. Democrats understand the importance of having a Democrat represent that seat. Republicans need to understand the same thing. Even though I disagree with Paul Hager's pro-abortion views, that will not disqualify him from getting my vote, because if that seat is held by a Republican, the chances of Republicans controlling committee chairmanships and the Speaker's chair is greater. This means pro-life legislation (which has been shown to reduce the number of abortions) will have a greater chance of passing.