I grew up as the sixth of seven children in a house where everything was a competition from sun up to sun down. When I say everything, I mean it. This is where I learned to eat faster and in larger quantity than anyone I know (except my sister Kathy who might weigh 100 pounds). In the Leppert house, the prize for eating the fastest was the first place in line for seconds. The lower your finishing speed, the higher the odds were that you weren’t going to get that second bowl full of whatever was in that giant pot on the stove. Trust me when I say it didn’t matter what was in that pot, it was always delicious enough to justify the competition.
As the sixth child, you lose more often than most. Learning how to do that with grace and humor can become a valuable skill in a tough room. Which leads me to this week’s real topic: the backers of HJR 3 and 6, the defenders of Indiana’s own Defense of Marriage Act, and their inability to learn how to lose. Hopefully, the Contrarian can offer some meaningful help on it.
First, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its rulings last summer that prohibiting gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional, it was the best opportunity for the proponents of the Indiana constitutional amendment to acknowledge the inevitable fate of their initiative and stand down. They had fought their fight, and a higher power had beaten them to the punch and settled the dispute for them. **It’s kind of like fighting with your sister over the last pancake and having your mom give it to your dad in the middle of the fight. End of fight, now it’s time to move on to arguing over who does the dishes.
Next, while ignoring the position of the highest court, the supporters continued their push for the state constitutional definition of marriage. The initiative failed to get to the finish line unscathed and that floundering process was sent back to the start line. When the resolution was amended, and was not eligible to continue on its path to referendum, it was another undeniable defeat. This was also another distinct opportunity for supportive legislators to acknowledge defeat, hold their head high for the effort, and turn their focus to tax relief or jobs. **Keeping with the theme: continuing to fight over who gets “dish duty” only leads to looking like a bigger loser when your mom assigns you the dishes for the rest of the week. Avoid that.
Now in recent weeks, a U.S. District Court judge ruled the existing statute in Indiana defining marriage as only existing between one man and one woman as discriminatory, unconstitutional, and ineffective. The predictable flood of couples filing for marriage licenses and the exchanging of vows all over the state ensued. It was a wonderful few days in Indiana I might add—a mini “Summer of Love.” Our attorney general took an unemotional legal stance by defending his client and its laws and filed a motion to stay the ruling. His motion was predictably granted. However, all logical observers know the stay is temporary and nothing more than a futile effort of legal wrangling that will again give certain players the opportunity to once again claim that they did all they could. **Now the dishes are done and put away, and this is the undeniable, no-more-whining, bedtime for the loser. The starting point of the original dispute is cloudy to everyone else in the house and you have just become the kid with dishpan hands. The house is a happy place because all disputes have been settled. Saying one more word about the damn pancakes might get your ass kicked, by any number of people including your little brother or any one of your four sisters. Shut up, brush your teeth, go to bed and begin planning the first competition tomorrow, preferably one you can win.
OR, you can send out a memo to the other inhabitants of the house claiming that you still think the pancake your dad ate was actually yours.
While growing up in my house, recognizing when you have lost and moving on was a survival skill. In politics, it is no different. Fighting the good fight in a losing effort and making people think about your perspective is an invaluable part of our processes. In this case, that fight was over a long time ago. Continuing to fight this fight after it has been lost a dozen times just makes the fighter look like the cry baby little brother that won’t go to bed. Again, avoid that.