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Marriage amendment headed to vote, despite warnings

A hearing proposed constitutional amendment ban same-sex marriage Indiandrew protesters IndianStatehouse last week. | Associated Press

A hearing on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana drew protesters to the Indiana Statehouse last week. | Associated Press

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Updated: February 28, 2014 6:22AM



Indiana legislators listened to the impact of a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage for nearly four hours on Wednesday and the stories ran the gamut.

A gay woman with lung cancer detailed how her partner isn’t treated as her wife when she has to go to the hospital.

A physician emphasized the importance of a mother and a father in raising children.

Officials from Eli Lilly and Co. and Cummins Engine Co. detailed how the ban would hurt their efforts to recruit the best and brightest to work in Indiana.

An Indiana University official warned it could prevent domestic partners from receiving health insurance and other benefits.

In the end, the Indiana House Elections committee voted 9-3 to send House Joint Resolution 3 to the floor, and the vote fell along party lines, despite concerns about how this might impact gay residents’ personal, religious, legal and business lives.

Amy Sandler, who lives in Munster with her wife Niki Quasney and two children, said the stories told during the hearing were heartbreaking.

“Honestly, this is getting old,” Sandler wrote in an e-mail. “Why would anyone want to push a resolution through that will take away rights and make lives harder for families? Anyone that votes in favor of this resolution is selfish, heartless and not looking out for Indiana families. History has proven that there are certain issues, particularly those protected by the United States Constitution, that should not be left to single-minded voters.”

Indiana banned same-sex marriage in 1986, and in 1997 it refused to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. But same-sex marriage opponents have pushed for enshrining the ban in the state constitution in recent years.

After passing by large margins in 2011, the constitutional amendment, with the exact same wording, must pass in a subsequent session, and then be approved in a voter referendum, to become part of the state constitution.

Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, sits on the committee and voted for its passage. It passed in its first and second readings this week and will likely come up for final passage early next week.

“I have gay friends,” Soliday said. “But we’ve got to make sure citizens determine what are rights and what are privileges. It’s a religious and cultural issue. But I was turned off when someone said that businesses won’t move here because we’re simply debating the issue.”

Sandler was particularly peeved that Gov. Mike Pence appeared this week at an event sponsored by the Indiana Family Institute, which has been a driving force behind the amendment.

“It’s incredibly sad that our leaders cannot separate religious fears from human issues,” Sandler said. “They are sending a very clear message that my family is not welcome in Indiana. I’m sure one day some of our children’s friends will ask them how their parents are married in a state that doesn’t permit same-sex marriage. We’ll just refer them to Mike Pence or (House Speaker) Brian Bosma.”

Two local mayors — Hammond’s Thomas McDermott and Valparaiso’s Jon Costas — have indicated their opposition to the measure.

McDermott and Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, were critical of the move by House Speaker Brian Bosma, D-Indianapolis, who put House Joint Resolution 3 in the hands of the Elections committee when it got bogged down in the Judiciary committee.

“Changing the constitution is not supposed to be easy,” McDermott said. “It’s supposed to be an arduous process.”

Brown said it’s the first time he can think of that a bill changed committees after the first committee held a hearing and heard testimony.

“It’s really something unique and bizarre, and it makes a mockery of the entire legislative process,” Brown said. “You have to look at the real underlying purpose for this move, and it’s major fundraising tool for his caucus. That’s the main reason for getting it out there.”

The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce indicated its opposition to the proposed amendment last fall, but local chambers have stayed mum.

South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Speros Batistatos said he doesn’t think it would negatively impact tourism in Northwest Indiana since it doesn’t specifically focus advertising toward the GLBT community

“We serve all people who walk through our doors, visit our website or call us, equally, and with respect and compassion,” Batistatos said.

More importantly, Batistatos believes voters may not be clear about the measure that’s being voted on.

“It troubles me greatly, but the average voter thinks that this process is the right to say if marriage is legal or not in Indiana,” Batistatos said. “They are about to meddle with the constitution when there are a lot of misconceptions out there.”

Brown has noted confusion among people who call his office in support of the amendment, saying they want a chance to vote on it.

“Those in favor of the amendment have friends and allies calling us, saying they want a chance to vote on this, and they’re not even aware already a law banning same-sex marriage in the state,” Brown said.

The proposed amendment reads: “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

Soliday said the second line in the amendment is causing some consternation among fellow Republicans, but they can’t amend any part of the language. A companion bill — House Bill 1163 — seeks to assuage concerns that the amendment could bar employers from providing benefits to same-sex partners of employees, but it could spark a legal challenge.

“I think it deserves public debate,” Soliday said. “Who knows what will happen when it comes on the floor or when the Senate gets it? We’re not monolithic in the Republican Party on this issue at all. The strongest feeling is, people have a right to vote on this.

“I think you’ve got to be blind and deaf to not be able to tell that the culture is changing on this issue. Regardless, it will probably be decided by the federal courts, and we’re not going to avoid litigation.”



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