Indiana News

House Committee Approves Gay-Marriage Amendment

Vote in full House will be first in six years

2/7/2011

The Indiana House will consider a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, for the first time in six years.

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The House Judiciary Committee approved the proposed constitutional amendment Monday on an 8-4 party-line vote. The full House could vote as early as Thursday.

Supporters of a ban used the hearing to knock down legal arguments against it, arguing contract law will preserve health benefits and other rights of same-sex couples.

Opponents, like Patrick Roth of Indianapolis, argue the amendment's overall purpose is offensive, contending it makes gays second-class citizens.

"This amendment will not strengthen anyone's marriage. It will not protect anyone's children from anything," Roth told the panel. "What it will do is tell the people of Indiana that it's okay to discriminate against some of its citizens, and that some are better than others."

Attorney Austin Nimocks with the Arizona-based conservative legal foundation Alliance Defense Fund argues the Supreme Court ruling invalidating bans on interracial marriage, often cited as precedent for rejecting gay-marriage bans, actually strengthens his side's case. The court described marriage then as "fundamental to our very existence and survival."

Nimocks says that supports backers' argument that marriage is traditionally about procreation, and therefore by definition is limited to a man and a woman.

The Senate has approved a marriage amendment five times. The House approved it once, in 2005. But constitutional amendments must pass two separate General Assemblies, and a House committee deadlocked on it in 2007. That was the last hearing the amendment got until Republicans regained control of the House in November's election.

30 states ban gay marriage in their constitutions. Indiana is one of nine others which ban it by state law. Supporters argue an amendment is necessary to avoid the fate of Iowa, where the state Supreme Court declared that state's ban unconstitutional.

Iowa and four other states have legalized same-sex marriage.

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