An Indiana Republican state senator is being criticized for his position that married heterosexual couples, preferably biological parents, are best suited to raise children, and that scenario should be pursued whenever possible.
State Sen. John Crane (R-Brownsburg), who was first elected in 2016, made the statements on a section of his campaign website titled “Priorities,” underneath a sub-section called “Protecting Hoosier Values.” In that sub-section, Crane touts the importance of “upholding the ideal of marriage.”
“Marriage, as designed by our Creator, is to be between a man and a woman. And social science has repeatedly confirmed that the ideal scenario for a child's well-being is to be raised in a home where both biological parents are present and lovingly invested in their upbringing,” the website reads. “We recognize that in our fractured world, the real is not always the ideal. And yet, because the ideal model of marriage and family serves the best interests of all people and societies, it should be pursued whenever possible.”
Crane also touts the importance of “religious liberty and rights of conscience for all Hoosiers” on the website. He claims there should be no laws passed that would restrict people from living “according to their most deeply-held convictions” or from seeking to express those beliefs. One of the talking points often utilized by social conservatives claims that laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people will lead to persecutions of individuals who express opposition to same-sex marriage and other equality issues.
But critics say that Crane's views on marriage and parenting leave out same-sex couples, single parents, and blended families with children from past marriages. Some LGBTQ advocates have expressed concern that Crane might use those beliefs to justify pursuing legislation that would harm LGBTQ individuals.
Specifically, critics point to the language on his website about “religious freedom,” which echoes similar arguments used to justify Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which lawmakers eventually were pressured to amend after a backlash against the state for passing a law that many interpreted as attacking the LGBTQ community.
During his time in the state Senate, Crane voted for a hate crimes bill that lacked an enumerated list of groups who could seek redress under the law. He later defended the bill in an op-ed for the Indiana Business Journal, claiming that the law — which does not contain specific mention of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, among other characteristics — would protect everyone equally.
He also co-authored a bill that would have required transgender Hoosiers to provide medical paperwork in order to obtain driver's licenses that match their gender identity. That bill failed, thereby allowing the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles moved forward with plans to offer a nonbinary or gender-neutral “X” gender marker.
State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), the state's first out LGBTQ legislator, took offense to Crane's “priorities” list on his website, writing on his Facebook page: “Know what I am tired of? I am tired of my Republican colleagues pretending to care when I know just how they feel. I know when it comes time for their elections they will post things like this on their Facebook pages and return back to the Statehouse to smile in my face.”
Ford later told the Indianapolis Star that the language on Crane's website implies that gay people would not be good parents.
“I reject his notion that I wouldn't be a good father,” he said.
But Crane says the post was written when he first ran for office four years ago, expressing surprise that it was gaining attention now. He also told the Star that he currently has no plans to pursue legislation targeting LGBTQ individuals, as his critics claim.
He said he didn't have the social science studies cited in his post, but knows that they have been disputed by LGBTQ advocates. But he also defended his views as “pretty standard for a Republican conservative.” He added that he understands why Ford might have taken offense, and that his views on the importance of two-parent, biological families are the ideal and should be pursued whenever possible.
“It's my position that a kid needs a good mom and a good dad,” Crane said. “He assumed that meant I thought he would not be a good dad. That's out of context.”
According to the Williams Institute, an estimated 78,000 LGBTQ Hoosiers are currently raising children. A 2017 study reviewing data from the National Health Interview Surveys from 2013 to 2015 found that children of LGBTQ parents experience no greater emotional or psychological difficulties to their peers raised by heterosexual couples. In fact, a 2019 study by European economists found that children raised by same-sex couples had higher test scores in elementary and secondary school and were about 7 percent more likely to graduate from high school than children raised by different-sex couples.”
Crane's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election, Navy veteran Stan Albaugh, also criticized Crane's positions, even writing an article for the website LGBTQ Nation about the controversy. He said that, as a parent in a blended family — he and his wife have five children and 10 grandchildren from previous marriages — he is offended by the assertion that only biological parents should raise children. He also noted that Crane's website was recently updated for the 2020 campaign, and yet still holds the same language it contained four years ago.
“My family, like many other families across Indiana, is a blended family. We are diverse, and we don’t all have the same DNA. But for my kids and for many children with blended families, that’s quite alright because what matters most to us is love, not DNA,” Albaugh wrote. “I'll put this bluntly: LGBTQ families in Indiana are under attack by my opponent John Crane simply because of DNA.
“While there is much about Senator Crane's opinions of the definition of family that are troublesome, I am most personally offended that a sitting Indiana State Senator would make it a ‘priority' to use debunked information to assert that only ‘biological parents' are best equipped to raise children. Whether a family is blended or LGBTQ, Crane’s claims couldn’t be more false,” Albaugh added.
“John Crane has made it clear that his definition of Hoosier and American values is rooted in debunked junk science, not reality. His rhetoric is a far cry from what I hear in my conversations with Hoosiers in Indiana. It is painfully obvious that John Crane’s only priority is to implement an agenda that is rooted in hate and division,” he continued. “Hoosiers deserve better than having an anti-LGBTQ activist representing them in elected office. A sitting state senator who speaks only for a specific fraction of his constituency is, by definition, failing to do his job.”
Democrats are hopeful that Albaugh will not only provide a stark contrast with Crane, but is poised to pull an upset in a state senate district that covers the western suburbs and exurbs of Indianapolis. According to the Statistical Atlas of the United States, Crane's district has a higher percentage of people with four-year college degrees or higher educational attainment than the national average, and is one of the more affluent state senate districts in the state. Due to an ongoing political realignment in which voters from well-educated and more affluent suburbs are shifting towards Democrats, Crane's district should be favorable terrain, and Hoosier Democrats are hoping they can take advantage of those political shifts this fall.
Ford told the Star that voters will ultimately decide whether Crane's rhetoric is appropriate. But he compared Crane's statements to the rhetoric used by former Gov. Mike Pence to pass Indiana's RFRA law.
“I thought we moved on from these divisive social issues,” he said.
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