Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Indiana House Votes to Amend Constitution to Ban Same-sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage ceremonyImage via WikipediaIf you look back over the history of civil rights struggles around the world, you'll notice that there is always a period just before the battle is won where the opposition becomes the most extreme and reaches a crescendo, only to crash and burn under its own weight.

I believe that's what we're witnessing these days in the battle for equality and why I'm not really upset about this  story, via The Courier Press.
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana House of Representatives voted Tuesday evening to amend a ban of gay marriages and civil unions into the state’s constitution.

The House approved the ban on a bipartisan 70-26 vote, starting the clock on a long process that – if there are no hitches along the way – could lead to voters having the final say in a November 2014 referendum.

The vote took place after a debate that, at less than 30 minutes, was much shorter than contentious issues often command in the House.

“The basic unit of society is the family, and the cornerstone of the family is marriage. Marriage is, and should be, the union of one man and one woman,” said the gay marriage ban’s author, Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion.

Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, D-Indianapolis, called the ban “a blow that hurts thousands across this great state, and taints our constitution with the language of hate,” and said she has friends and neighbors who are “deeply, deeply hurt by this legislation.”

Since the vote was originally scheduled for Monday, Sullivan said she had written her comments in the form of a valentine.

She said passing such a ban “removes talented people from classrooms and business, weakens the arts, our culture and progress, makes all of our cities less vibrant and diverse – the kinds of conditions that make economies worse.”

But Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, said the ban would have no effect on Hoosiers’ ability to live with and love whomever they choose.

“That loving friendship is a different relationship than a husband and wife, and we should recognize that in the law,” he said.

Same-sex marriage is already prohibited under Indiana law, but Turner said a constitutional amendment is necessary to keep the state’s courts from overturning that law.

The amendment says: “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.”

The second sentence, with the phrase “substantially similar,” would prohibit civil unions, though Turner said he does not believe that language would affect domestic partnership benefits such as health insurance.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said the amendment is “basically serving up an opportunity for judges to legislate, because they’re going to have to decide what ‘substantially similar’ means.”

Meanwhile, he said, an amendment elevates the issue beyond lawmakers’ regular control. “It locks us out of the process,” he said.

Rep. David Cheatham, D-North Vernon, said same-sex couples have no inherent right to marry. “It’s different to have a freedom or privilege than it is to have a right, because those are protected by law,” he said.

By placing the issue on the ballot, Cheatham said, Hoosiers will decide whether marriage is a right to which same-sex couples should be entitled.

“We simply offer that question to the people,” he said. “We don’t decide that. The people decide that.”

Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, voted against the gay marriage ban. She said that was because she is afraid it would affect gay couples’ benefits, wills and more. All other Southwestern Indiana lawmakers voted for it.

The ban now moves to the Senate, where its passage is a near certainty because the chamber has approved a constitutional gay marriage ban without any trouble repeatedly in recent years.

It would have to pass a separately-elected General Assembly, which means it’d need to clear the House and the Senate in either 2013 or 2014, as well. Then, the ban would go to a statewide referendum.
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  1. Hey Steve this may be a dumb question, but What would be the effect of DOMA being overturned at the federal level on these state constitutional amdenments ? Would they then become null and void imeadantly or would they then have to go through a unch of b/s to be removed from each states constitution ?

  2. Good question, Brandi.
    Overturning DOMA would not affect the state constitutional amendments like Prop 8 and the one we have in Va. However, if the Prop 8 challenge makes it to the US Supreme Court and we win, that would nullify all those state constitutional bans nationwide as they would be in violation of the US constitution.

    If we win the Prop 8 challenge in a lower court, before it gets to the Supreme Court, which could happen on a technicality, then the ruling stands, but only for California. This could set a precedent that other states could use to overturn their own amendments. Then it would have to be a whole lot of b/s on a state by state basis.

    The immediate effect of overturning DOMA would probably be felt first among government workers and military personnel. The federal government is the largest employer in the US. They would have to do something about employee benefits packages. They would also have to address the federal tax situation for legally married gay couples.

    DOMA also says that states aren't required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. If DOMA was suddenly gone there would be a whole lot of lawsuits from gay couples seeking legal status in their home states, if they were married somewhere else.

    There's also the immigration issue. Straight folks can marry a foreigner and sponsor them for citizenship. Gay couples can't.

    There is a whole big ripple effect. It's a much bigger issue than most people understand.

    Thanks for your question. Rock on, girl!


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