How did the General Assembly Spend its Thursday Afternoon?

(Editor’s Note: Instead of spending time debating (in the public) the budget, redistricting, school reform, or job creation/tax reform, the Indiana House of Representatives worked on restricting freedom and trying to control Indiana’s population. This is a recap of Thursday’s “marriage strengthening” debate.)

By Evan McMahon, Executive Director of Atlas Liberty PAC

On Thursday the Indiana House of Representatives held a vote with limited debate on an amendment to remove the second line from HJR-6, an amendment to the Indiana State Constitution banning all recognition of any form of same-sex union. The amendment failed 32-60, not along party lines.

“Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) 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.”

Most, if not all, of the supporters of the change to HJR-6 said that it was over the ambiguity of “substantially similar” and the fear that these two words could have far reaching and unintended consequences.

Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson), who authored Thursday’s failed amendment, said during the debate “I think we can uphold the institution of marriage and still protect fundamental rights that people who may live, believe and love differently than we do are entitled to.”

I’m left questioning what makes Mrs. Austin think that by simply removing “substantially similar” from this constitutional amendment that the state would be protecting the “fundamental rights” of effected Hoosiers?
In response to questions as to why the state needs a constitutional amendment when there is already a state statute banning same-sex marriage, Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), author of HJR-6, said the amendment is needed to prevent activist judges from voiding the current law. Turner went on to cite a similar case in Iowa where judges had struck down a state statute for violating the Iowa Constitution. He pointed to the strict language of other states. But he also said this amendment is not an attack on any one group or community.

I question this since Indiana DoMa (Defense of Marriage Act) has been around since 1997 and was upheld as constitutional in Morrison v. Sadler (Jan. 20th 2005).

IC 31-11-1-1
Same sex marriages prohibited

Sec. 1. (a) Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female.
(b) A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized.

Rep. Ralph Foley (R- Martinsville) was correct when he said that marriage is not a religious term, but a legal term defined by the state. He said this as a deflection from the argument that this measure to define marriage in the state constitution is a religious effort.

Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) called that very argument into question. He insisted that the members of the Assembly be honest with their motives for supporting HJR-6. He stated he felt that most of this measure’s supporters are doing it for religious reasons not out of some civil protection.

DeLaney went on to address the notion that this will not impact contracts, as Rep. Turner suggested. If people are not afforded any “legal status” their contracts, wills, bank and parental instructions, medical visitation and power of attorney forms can all be successfully challenged in court by an ‘unsupportive’ or hostile family member.

There are also questions to whether an employer can offer health benefits to their employee’s same-sex partner. Under the new Federal healthcare law it is unclear what is and isn’t covered by the state. For sure we know that if that matter was to go to court for resolution, the couple would have no legal status.
Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) cited logical economic reasons for supporting the removal of the second line. He shared a story about a gay couple who relocated their businesses and all of their assets to Bloomington, Indiana after their home state of Virginia passed a constitutional amendment almost identical to the currently proposed one. After spending countless hours and vast amounts of money making sure they were legally protecting each other in the event of death or dissolution…they were advised by a lawyer that their ‘paper work’ was probably no longer valid in Virginia.

Pierce said that the couple was an asset to the community and that he feared they would leave, with their businesses, if HJR-6 was passed in its current form.

Rep. Sheila Klinker (D-Lafayette) spoken of the gay and lesbian teens she worked with as a teacher. How touched she was when they spoke to her of the respect that she had shown them in the classroom. She said at one point, “The State and US Constitution were written to protect people’s rights, not to take them away.”

Since the amendment to HJR-6 died 32-60 the full resolution will now move to a floor vote in the coming weeks.

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