INDIANAPOLIS — A prominent Indiana conservative group has distributed a flier to churches making dire predictions if a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage isn't adopted.
The Sunday bulletin insert from Advance America warns that allowing same-sex marriages could lead to ministers facing hate-crime charges for preaching against homosexuality and cross-dressing men being allowed in women's restrooms, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1dbj437 ).
The proposed amendment is expected be a major topic during the legislative session that starts next month.
Some legal experts and gay-rights supporters say Advance America is using isolated examples or misconceptions as scare tactics.
Advance America executive director Eric Miller, who is a high-profile lobbyist at the Statehouse on social conservative issues, said Friday the flier points out changes that gay-rights activists are pushing for around the country, including the legalization of same-sex marriages.
"Part of the homosexual agenda is to silence and intimate the church and pastors from preaching what the Bible says about marriage between a man and a woman," Miller told The Associated Press.
Curt Smith, president of the conservative Indiana Family Institute, said Advance America's flier makes reasonable claims about potential harms to religious freedom if the state's current law banning gay marriages was to be overturned in court.
"The issues and the ideas that are presented are fair," Smith said. "They are the logical consequences of this kind of policy."
Other gay-marriage dangers included in the flier are that the government could force businesses such as florists and caterers to participate in same-sex weddings, and schools would be required to teach children that homosexual marriages are normal and acceptable.
Lambda Legal, an advocate for gay rights, says such arguments are "sadly familiar" from marriage debates nationwide.
"As each state, one by one, opens marriage to same-sex couples, it should be increasingly obvious that these claims are just alarmist," said Jennifer Pizer, the New York-based group's legal and policy director.
Advance America, which says it has more than 3,700 member churches statewide, doesn't know how many churches have distributed the flier, Miller said.
Jennifer Drobac, a family law professor at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law, said the flier makes claims with little basis in reality.
"This is just ludicrous," she said. "This is just promulgating panic — and misinformed panic."
Freedom Indiana, the coalition working to defeat the amendment, has the support of numerous Republican and Democratic mayors in Indiana and prominent institutions such as Eli Lilly and Co., the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro-Tem David Long, both Republicans, have said they expect the Legislature will vote during its upcoming session on whether to put the amendment on the November 2014 ballot.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com