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Associated Press Updated: February 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Herald-Times. Feb. 4, 2014

Senate should not listen to governor on HJR-3 issue

HJR-3, the bill that as originally written would amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, continues to divide Hoosiers and monopolize time at the Statehouse.

Unfortunately, Gov. Mike Pence helped ensure that will continue with comments he made to an Indianapolis television station last week.

The Indiana House of Representatives appeared to tamp down the fire of the debate when it voted last week in favor of an amended bill that deleted a sentence that stated: "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

Thus, the House version no longer pertains to civil unions and alleviated the fears of opponents that the amendment also would threaten domestic partner benefits that are offered now in recognition of the commitment couples have made to each other.

The House change, if approved by the Senate as well, would restart the clock on amending the constitution and put off a potential vote on the matter until 2016.

But last week, the governor said he would favor the amendment as originally written. That would give the people of Indiana the ability to vote on the same-sex marriage question in November 2014. He was clear to say he realizes the decision is up to the General Assembly, and not him, but equally clear he wanted this issue to move forward quickly. He implied voting on the issue would settle it once and for all.

He couldn't be more wrong.

The House didn't go far enough. If legislators want to settle this issue, they should drop the idea of amending the Constitution for this purpose all together. But the action the House took was a reasonable step that acknowledges the growing legitimacy and acceptance of same-sex partnerships.

A state law already defines marriage as between one man and one woman. This current batch of lawmakers should not be trying to build in a constitutional amendment to solidify what's in place to make it harder for a future legislature to change the law.

This persistence in wanting a constitutional amendment is based on fear that a majority of Hoosiers might soon want to do just that — change the law. Poll after poll shows more acceptance of same-sex marriage, with a generation of 18-to-34-year-olds overwhelmingly favoring giving the same rights to marry that heterosexuals enjoy to gay men and lesbians.

Even delaying a public vote on the matter is a threat to the ideology of the right, because the chances of even conservative Indiana rejecting the amendment will be greater in two years than they are now.

And as we've noted before, legislators abandon representative democracy with their intent to let the voters decide to block some from having a particular right through a constitutional amendment. These elected leaders should lead. They shouldn't send Hoosier voters to the polls hoping they'll say the Indiana Constitution should favor the majority and not treat all people equally.

Gov. Pence is wrong on this issue. Senators should side with their colleagues in the House, at least, and mitigate the damage that could be caused by HJR-3, as well as delay a potential ballot question and all of the divisive campaigning that will accompany such a question.

___

The Tribune, Seymour. Feb. 3, 2014.

Sources of journalists need to be protected

Openness in government is at the core of democracy, and a free and responsible press helps ensure that openness.

To expose matters that officials and bureaucrats would rather be kept hidden, reporters sometimes must use unnamed sources to protect whistle-blowers from losing their jobs. But currently there is no federal law that protects the journalists from being compelled to reveal those sources.

The Free Flow of Information Act would offer that protection, and the bill is under consideration by the full Senate. Action is likely early in the current session. We urge Sens. Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly to vote for it.

The Free Flow of Information Act (S. 987) would allow journalists to protect the identities of their confidential sources in federal court. The proposal has strong bipartisan support. In September, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill by a 13-5 vote. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has 20 co-sponsors from both parties.

The Department of Justice put confidential sources at risk by secretly obtaining the communications records of reporters from The Associated Press and Fox News. This overreach by the department has had a chilling effect on communications between reporters and sources. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said, "Some of our long-trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us, even on stories that aren't about national security. In some cases, government employees that we once checked in with regularly will no longer speak to us by phone and some are reluctant to meet in person."

The bill would establish clear and reasonable rules for when the government and others can seek information from journalists and their service providers that could compromise confidential sources. An independent federal judge would review all information requests to journalists and their service providers to prevent government overreach and to protect the public's right to know.

The bill is not a free pass for the press. It creates a qualified, not absolute, privilege. There are exceptions to the privilege, including a national security exception that allows the government to obtain information to prevent an act of terrorism or other harm to national security.

The bill would apply to the vast majority of people who do journalism regardless of medium or technology and includes a safety valve that gives federal judges the discretion to protect the source of someone who does not fit precisely into the definition of "covered journalist."

We urge our Hoosier senators to support this bill. It will help us fulfill our role as a government watchdog and, more importantly, keep the public informed.

___

Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. Feb. 1, 2014.

Nice reprieve for small towns

As billions of dollars in financial pressures have tightened a near-death grip on what we used to simply call the post office, many in our smaller towns have begun to see a loss of mail services.

Some towns have already lost their post offices, and more probably will close.

Many remaining post offices have had their business hours cut in ways that, at least in terms of convenience, have reduced services to customers.

No longer can one run to the small-town post office during normal business hours, without looking at the clock, to mail a letter, buy a stamp, get a money order or send a package. If you do, you might find a "Sorry, closed" sign and a locked door.

That has been complicated all across the country, and certainly in the Wabash Valley, by the consolidation of mail processing centers and the use of bigger mail hubs in central cities such as Indianapolis. Jobs have been lost in cities such as Terre Haute, millions of dollars saved for sure, but from services lost.

Into that vacuum has developed a rather nice piece of business — and, really, of Americana. It's nothing perhaps to jump up and down about, but it is a welcome development.

It's called the Village Post Office, VPO for short. What is probably the nation's newest VPO opened Tuesday in Clay City, a town of 861 in southern Clay County.

As you read in the Tribune-Star last week, Russ and Lori Miller have expanded their IGA store in town to now handle postal services. The U.S. Postal Service office in Clay City is still open, but its hours are expected to be cut to six a day beginning in October.

Cutting the town's post office hours and introducing VPOs, USPS spokeswoman Mary Dando said, "is a strategy to save small post offices" while cutting costs.

The Millers' grocery is prime as a VPO site because it is a well-established business and can offer many more hours than the traditional post office: the grocery is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. The store will get a modest income from the postal service to offer mail products and also will gain some foot traffic that will ring the cash register a bit more. But Russ Miller told our Sue Loughlin that it's basically a community service. "We try as much as possible to be community-oriented," he said.

The VPO concept must be an especially good fit for Indiana towns, maybe because of widespread community orientation — or at least we'd like to think that. By our count on the USPS website, there are 59 VPOs in Indiana, compared with only seven in Illinois. Other Wabash Valley towns having VPOs are Dugger (about which we wrote a few months ago), Lyons, Worthington, Kingman and Spencer.

The VPO is still a new idea. The first one was in Malone, Wash., a Grays Harbor town of a few hundred people about 65 miles from Seattle. Red's Hop N' Market is home to that VPO, a mini-mart where postal services are in the mix with lottery tickets, fishing bait, milk, doughnuts, soft drinks and beer. It opened in Malone in August 2011 — the day after the town's post office closed.

In ways, the VPO is a throwback to a few decades ago when the general store also served as the branch post office, and where the postmaster or postmistress also wore the apron of the meat cutter or the work shirt of the guy pumping gas.

Before nostalgia overwhelms us, we don't mean to suggest that the VPO is necessarily better than the full-service post office — for instance the VPO's services are limited to the real basics such as buying stamps or getting a mailing box.

But those are not to be dismissed as inconsequential, of course. And the VPO maintains a level of mail service in towns that otherwise might lose all services. And it puts those services in the hands of community-minded business people, like the Millers. Those things are not at all bad, especially given the alternative.

So, hail the Village Post Office where the shopping list is bread, milk, eggs, soda — and stamps.

___

Journal & Courier, Lafayette, Jan. 29, 2014.

Amended or not, HJR-3 needs to die

A lot can happen in two years. Just look at what happened in the past two years in Indiana when it comes to the question of putting Indiana's state law banning same-sex marriage into the state Constitution.

On Tuesday, the Indiana House sent House Joint Resolution 3 — the proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage between one man and one woman — to the Indiana Senate, on a vote of 57-40. The Senate is expected to take up HJR-3 in two weeks.

The bigger news might have come Monday, when the wording was changed, stripping HJR-3 of restrictions that could have prevented the state from recognizing civil unions, benefits for domestic partners and more.

The move — an amendment sponsored by state Rep. Randy Truitt, a West Lafayette Republican — essentially chokes the chances of putting the question on a statewide ballot this November. If the Senate agrees to a pared down HJR-3, ballot question — the final step in the state's constitutional amendment process - would be postponed until November 2016. (The Senate still could reinsert the part removed in the House.)

Truitt deserves credit for challenging the problematic second sentence of HJR-3. Toss in, too, Greater Lafayette Reps. Sheila Klinker and Sharon Negele for voting with him on the amendment to HJR-3. The chance that HJR-3 could be altered and delayed this way seemed remote when it first passed in 2011. (The House voted 70-26 in 2011; the Senate voted 40-10.)

What remains, though, is a fundamentally flawed plan to insert lines of discrimination into the Indiana Constitution.

Forget the technicalities. Forget the lawsuits that are bound to follow. Forget the heaping insults waiting to be hurled at Indiana by those who wonder how a state is willing to plant its flag on the wrong side of history.

Singling out a population of Hoosiers in the name of defending marriage — an institution under attack from plenty of traditional forces of the heterosexual variety (affairs, divorce, indifference) — is wrong from an ethical standpoint and it's wrong from a public policy standpoint. The meaning of anyone's marriage vows won't change one iota if HJR-3 dies.

HJR-3, amended or not, is simply wrong.

Pull the plug on HJR-3 now.

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