Indiana News

House Sets Committee Hearing on Gay-Marriage Ban for Monday

Companion bill clarifies bill wouldn't affect other domestic-partner policies

1/9/2014


House Speaker Brian Bosma (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)

A House committee will debate the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on Monday, along with a companion bill explaining what the bill wouldn't do.

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Cicero Republican Eric Turner, the author of the marriage amendment, and Lizton Republican Jeff Thompson have drafted a statement of legislative intent, declaring that the amendment should not be read as undermining domestic-violence laws, preventing employers from offering health benefits to domestic partners, or interfering with wills or trusts.

Opponents of the amendment have warned the ban could have unintended consequences for dozens of laws. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) calls some of those predicted problems "red herrings," but says some are legitimate concerns. He points to fears voiced by Indiana University that, as a state university, they could be forced to drop insurance coverage for domestic partners. Bosma says the companion bill should put those fears to rest.

Bosma has assigned both the bill and the amendment to the Judiciary Committee. He says he hasn't counted votes but hopes the legislation will pass.

Bosma's framing his support for the amendment in legal terms. Of 33 states which have banned same-sex marriage, Indiana is one of just four which haven't written the ban into their constitutions. Bosma says the state shouldn't leave open the possibility of the Indiana Supreme Court overruling the will of the legislature.

A federal court could invalidate either a statutory or constitutional ban.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City), who helped kill an earlier attempt at the amendment as chairman of the House Rules Committee in 2007 and 2008, contends the need for a companion bill shows the amendment is poorly thought out, and says the bill might not stand up in court anyway. And he notes Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) don't even agree on what the bill says. Long contends it leaves a door open to allow civil unions in the future.

Bosma says it's possible legislators' votes on the measures could have consequences at the ballot box, but says he's urged lawmakers to vote their conscience.

Constitutional amendments must pass the legislature twice, then be approved by the voters. Bipartisan majorities passed the amendment in 2011, 70-26 in the House and 40-10 in the Senate. 53 of the House yes votes and 37 Senate supporters are still serving.

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