posttrib
CRACKLING 
Weather Updates

Amended same-sex marriage ban advances to Indiana Senate

Eric Turner

Eric Turner

storyidforme: 61287998
tmspicid: 22166831
fileheaderid: 10521897
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: March 3, 2014 3:18PM



A proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the Indiana constitution passed the House 57-40 on Tuesday afternoon, moving it to the Senate. But what happens next is up in the air.

Indiana banned same-sex marriage in 1986, and it has been upheld by state courts despite numerous challenges. While proponents argued that it should be up to the voters, those opposed to a constitutional amendment say House Joint Resolution 3 just invites the federal courts to get involved, which they have in the recent cases of Ohio and Utah.

Minority Leader Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, argued that the state already suffers from “brain drain,” so that young people choose to live and work elsewhere after graduation.

“We took a step in the right direction (Monday) night, but it was just a step,” Pelath said. “We need to accept the fact that we are changing, and make this a state not just that we want to live in, but our kids want to live in.”

Relating her struggles to become a police officer, Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, said discrimination of any kind is an “ugly and mean thing.”

Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, said she respected her colleagues’ religious beliefs, but putting such a divisive issue on the ballot can split communities.

“I’m afraid of what this will bring to my neighborhood,” she said. “I’ve gone out of my way to help my children to accept everyone. In your heart, you have to know it’s wrong to discriminate.”

The majority of Northwest Indiana representatives voted against the amendment, known as House Joint Resolution 3, with the exception of Reps. Rick Niemeyer of Lowell, Hal Slager of Schererville and Ed Soliday of Valparaiso, all Republicans.

On Monday, Soliday joined Northwest Indiana Democrats to strike the second sentence, which would have outlawed civil unions and possibly prevented companies from offering domestic partner benefits. Slager voted to keep it and Niemeyer was absent.

The proposed amendment now reads: “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.”

Despite the vote, the amendment faces an uncertain future. The Senate could take up the revised amendment passed by the House or pass the original amendment from 2011. The first option would restart the amendment process — since the language was amended — and delay any voter referendum until 2016 at the earliest, while the second choice would send both versions to a conference committee to be reconciled. If conferees revert to the original version, it must be approved by the House and Senate again — unchanged — if it is to go before the voters this fall.

Courtney Arango, spokeswoman for Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said the senator has provided surveys for his constituents to voice their opinions on the issue. He wants to wait until after the deadline to send those in, which is Friday, to comment on the issue, she said.

Indiana University assistant professor of English Anne Balay said the amendment has come up in discussion of current events in her Introduction to Women’s and Gender Issues class this semester.

“We’ve talked about marriage and the religious, legal, cultural aspects, such as visitation in the hospital and tax issues,” said Balay, who is gay. “We’ve tried to separate those and have meaningful conversations, which the Indiana General Assembly seems incapable of having.”

In particular, Balay said, it’s an interesting contrast with neighboring Illinois, where same-sex marriage will be legal in June.

She said “letting voters have a say” is a bad idea when it comes to basic rights.

“The ballot is a ridiculous place to have this debate,” Balay said. “You don’t turn to voters to decide basic rights.”

The Rev. Ron Johnson Jr., with the Crown Point-based Living Stones Church and executive director of Indiana’s Pastor Alliance, has spoken in favor of the bill. Johnson said Tuesday he was happy the bill passed the House but hopes the Senate restores the second sentence banning civil unions.

“What we’re voting on is to bring it to Hoosiers,” Johnson said, saying that no matter what the polls show, the best opinion poll is an election.

He added that he’s concerned by the Republicans who voted for the bill in 2011 and now have voted to amend it.

“That’s deeply disheartening to me because I think it’s a betrayal of communities,” Johnson said.

He said he’s concerned about the bill’s fate if it must be voted on again in 2016.

“If this group can’t get it done, I don’t think there’s the will among our current political leadership to go through that political process again,” he said.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, the Lake County Democratic Party chairman and an opponent of the bill, said he was glad to see the second sentence was stripped but still is against the proposed amendment.

“I still think it’s a huge mistake that we’re even talking about it,” he said.

If the change to the bill sticks and it must go for a second vote in 2016 before the General Assembly, McDermott said he thinks Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who has pushed for the bill to go to referendum this year, will be in a tricky situation as that is when he also will be up for re-election.

“I think we’re going to see how much Gov. Pence believes in his own rhetoric,” McDermott said.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.