Senate approves weakened same-sex marriage ban; no referendum before 2016
BY SUZANNAH COUCH Post-Tribune correspondent February 17, 2014 5:58PM
Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, left, and Sen. James Tomes, R-Wadesville, next to him, watch the votes go on the board as the Illinois Senate passes a measure to amend the state constitution by banning gay marriage on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. The Indiana Senate voted Monday in favor of the measure 32-17, but it will be 2016 at the earliest before the measure appears on a statewide ballot because of a late change that limits the scope of the ban. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Charlie Nye) NO SALES
Updated: February 18, 2014 2:02AM
INDIANAPOLIS — By a 32-17 vote, the Indiana Senate on Monday approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage — but it won’t go to voters this fall.
Instead, the General Assembly must approve it again in 2015 or 2016 before it can be considered by voters. That’s because the original second sentence of the amendment, banning civil unions, was taken out by the House and wasn’t reinserted in the Senate.
After the final vote on the amendment, Gov. Mike Pence released a statement:
“While I had hoped that this measure could be sent to voters this year, I accept the outcome of the legislative process and look forward to continuing to work with members of both parties to advance our agenda for good jobs, great schools and strong communities.”
An amendment must be passed in identical form by two separately elected legislatures to go on the ballot during the next election. The amendment passed in 2011 but since it was changed this year, it’s not eligible for a vote in November.
Northwest Indiana senators Ed Charbonneau, R–Valparaiso; Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek; and Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte are members of the Senate Rules Committee that kept the changes to the amendment made in the House.
Sen. Karen Tallian, D–Ogden Dunes, was “pleasantly surprised” the House eliminated civil unions from the amendment and the Senate kept that change.
Tallian said public input influenced lawmakers. Representatives of influential businesses and organizations — including Indiana University and Cummins Inc. — spoke against the amendment as well.
Even though HJR 3 will not be on the ballot this November, Tallian sees the measure or something similar being considered again.
But during the Senate debate Monday, Tallian said Hoosiers have already spoken without voting.
“They know that we are the gatekeepers and they’re out there telling us to shut this gate. The people in the state of the Indiana are not clamoring for the amendment,” she said.
Other Republican senators were not happy with the way HJR 3 ended up.
Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said he makes every decision in the Senate based upon his God, and that’s why he voted in favor of the amendment.
“I have to do what I believe is right,” Young said.
Indiana residents should get to vote on the amendment so that a judge can’t decide Indiana’s law defining marriage is unconstitutional, Young said.
“I trust the people of the state of Indiana more than I trust one individual,” he said.
Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said he is a “strong believer in a one-man, one-woman marriage.” He said the amendment is not as strong without the second sentence banning civil unions. Still, Schneider said, “we have to learn to take half a loaf rather than no loaf at all.”
Rep. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, opposed the amendment in House for economic reasons. A same-sex marriage ban, he said, would hinder efforts to bring the best and brightest to work and go to school in Indiana.
“If the atmosphere does not meet their expectations regardless of what is offered in terms of revenue, they just wouldn’t be here. They’d go elsewhere,” Harris said.
Harris said he expects ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the issue, and that could be soon. Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal government had to recognize same-sex marriages in states that have legalized them. But the court left the decision about legalization to states. Since then, however, a number of lower court judges have declared state marriage bans unconstitutional.
That means the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on same-sex marriage before Indiana voters get a chance to voice their opinion on the ballot, which now can occur no sooner than 2016.
Before Monday’s vote, opponents of the amendment shouted “for all” in unison as the senators finished the Pledge of Allegiance.
Supporters of the proposed amendment were outnumbered Monday as Freedom Indiana — a coalition of businesses and organizations opposing the amendment — filled the Senate viewing gallery and the halls outside of the chamber.
Annette Gross is the state coordinator of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Gross is also a volunteer for Freedom Indiana and showed up Monday.
Gross has a gay son and friends who are a part of the LGBT community. She said she has tried to speak with Indiana legislators about how this would affect them.
“I don’t know if they really get it that we’re real people with real families,” Gross said. “They talk about family values and we just want to protect our families too, we want to protect our kids.”
Gross said the same-sex marriage ban “would cause them a lot of problems.”
Philip Cooper, a volunteer for Freedom Indiana, showed up to watch the Senate vote. Cooper’s bisexual daughter is one of the reasons he decided to volunteer with Freedom Indiana.
Cooper said it is a “definite win” for those who oppose the amendment that the referendum won’t be on the ballot this November. He said putting someones human rights on the ballot is like “playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.”
Cooper said same-sex marriage is a social issue and not a government issue and that it does not belong in a Constitution. Even though HJR 3 no longer bans recognition of civil unions, Cooper wants the entire amendment thrown out.
“It accomplishes nothing and does a lot of damage.”