Indiana News

Senate Committee Okays Constitutional Ban on Gay Marriage

Amendment would need House hearing to advance


A Senate committee has reignited the debate over gay marriage, endorsing a constitutional amendment to ban the practice.

State law already prohibits same-sex marriage, but supporters of the amendment make the same argument as proponents of the property tax circuit-breaker amendment approved earlier this week: without being enshrined in the constitution, the courts could end up overturning the law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 along party lines to recommend the amendment to the full Senate, which could vote on it next week.

The House and Senate approved a similar amendment in 2006. But the amendment stalled on its required second trip through the legislature in 2007, when a House committee deadlocked on the proposal. The amendment has not received a hearing in the House since.

Two versions of the amendment have been filed this year in the House, including one co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Steven Stemler of Jeffersonville and Ron Herrell of Kokomo. There's been no indication the resolution will receive a hearing.

Republicans on the panel remained silent throughout the two-hour hearing before voiting for the amendment. Democrats challenged witnesses to distinguish the ban from laws once on the books in Indiana and other states against interracial marriage.

Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) says supporters have made a bad amendment worse by proposing to ban not only marriage but civil unions, a possibility left open in earlier versions. He charges the amendment would lock discrimination into the constitution.

Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp helped draft the amendment, and is representing some of the witnesses in a challenge to California's gay-marriage ban. He notes several state Supreme Courts, most recently Iowa, have overridden laws like Indiana's, and contends opposition to a constitutional amendment amounts to an invitation to Indiana gay-rights group to go to court until they obtain a similar result.

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