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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 6, 2007

Indiana panel defeats
marriage ban amendment

Big business opposition, Ohio DV
problem were key

Indianapolis--Ohio’s troubles with its anti-marriage amendment and opposition from the state’s largest companies helped scuttle a proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution that would bar same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships in the state.

The Indiana House of Representatives Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee on April 3 deadlocked 5-5 on the measure, effectively killing it for the 2007 session.

“I have cried over this. I have prayed over this. I have sought advice from everyone I know to try and come to the right decision in my heart,” State Rep. Terri J. Austin said in committee, reported the Indianapolis Star. “I know some people will be disappointed in me, but I’ll have to live with that.”

Austin, who was in tears speaking to the committee, said that she supported the first sentence of the proposed amendment, which would restrict recognition of marriage in the state to the one man-one woman model. However, the second sentence stipulating that state law “may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incident of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups” soured it for her.

In Ohio, a similar second sentence of a 2004 amendment is calling into question whether domestic violence laws can protect unmarried couples.

Indiana House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer suggested removing the second sentence of the amendment, but supporters complained that it would delay a public vote for at least two years.

Constitutional amendments in Indiana must be passed by two separate sessions of the legislature before going to voters. The amendment that was defeated on April 3 passed overwhelmingly in 2005.

Opponents accused Bauer of political wrangling to kill the amendment, but he retorted that their agenda apparently goes beyond “protecting” marriage.

“If they really wanted to ban gay marriage in the constitution, I think that would have flown through,” he said. “But they went too far when they put in that second section and its uncertainty. Why put uncertainty in the constitution when you can fix it? They refused to fix it.”

Five major companies, all large employers in the state, spoke before the committee against the amendment. They said that it would send a bad message about the state and damage their ability to recruit talent.

“It sounds like our concerns were heard,” Eli Lilly spokesperson Carla Cox said. “This was an important decision for the state of Indiana.”

Other companies opposing the measure included Cummins, WellPoint, Emmis Communications and Dow AgroSciences.

“This resolution had no place in a state that professes to treat all residents with dignity,” Cummins spokesperson Robert Morris said. “Those who defeated it have done something good for Indiana and good for business.”

It is possible that the amendment could be reintroduced and passed next spring to be on the 2008 ballot.

Voters have passed marriage ban amendments in 27 states since 1998, when Alaska and Hawaii passed the first two. The only one to be defeated at the ballot box is an Arizona measure last November.

But seven ban amendments failed in state legislatures last year and eight more in 2005. Besides Indiana this year, lawmakers in New Mexico, New Hampshire and Maryland have turned down measures and the sponsor of an Arizona one says he filed it by mistake.

The Massachusetts legislature may still have a second vote on a ban amendment to cancel the nation’s only legal same-sex marriage there. Petitioners in Florida and California are gathering signatures for the 2008 ballot.

 

 

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