Monday, January 21, 2008

INDYGay-wed ban won't get hearing |

INDY Gay-wed ban won't get hearing

By Mary Beth Schneider
January 18, 2008
A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in Indiana likely was dealt a fatal blow today when a key lawmaker said he would not give the issue a hearing.
Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, who is chairman of the House Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee, said today that the most urgent issue facing the state is property taxes, not same-sex marriage, which already is banned by Indiana law.
“I’m not planning on having a hearing,” Pelath said. “The short session (of the legislature) was designed to deal with emergencies. We have a very serious problem with the property tax system, and we don’t have any gay marriages in Indiana.”The Senate committee plans to debate the amendment Thursday, but Eric Miller, who has pushed for passage of the amendment as founder of the conservative group Advance America, called that “disingenuous.”The legislature, he said, is dealing with plenty of issues besides property tax reform and has the time to debate and vote on this amendment before its March 14 deadline.“There are hundreds of bills being reviewed by a variety of committees,” he said. “Property taxes are the most important thing, but I’d view the marriage amendment as very important as well.”The bill is called House Joint Resolution 8 in the Democrat-controlled House; it is Senate Joint Resolution 7 in the Republican-controlled Senate.Turner said he is exploring options to try to get the bill a vote by the full House. But House rules state that a bill may not be called back from committee. The only route to a vote by the full House, apparently, is approval by a committee. To become part of Indiana’s Constitution, the proposed amendment must pass two separately elected legislatures and then be approved by voters statewide.The proposed amendment, which declares that marriage in Indiana is defined only as the union between one man and one woman, overwhelmingly passed the Indiana Senate and House in 2005.A new legislature was elected in November 2006, and it voted on the amendment in 2007. While the Senate approved it 39-10, the House Rules committee deadlocked 5-5, and the amendment was dead for the year.If it does not pass this year, the process must begin anew, and the earliest it could be on the ballot for voters to have the final say is 2012.The amendment died last year after encountering resistance from representatives of Indiana businesses who were concerned it would jeopardize their ability to recruit employees and offer domestic partner benefits. Since then, the Senate had been reluctant to take the lead.“There is little use to move it forward if the House is simply going to block further consideration,” said Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, before the session started earlier this month.Today, Hershman, who is sponsoring the amendment in the Senate, said that despite the House’s lack of action, he’s glad the proposal will get a Senate hearing.“The Senate has endorsed this amendment three times in very strong bipartisan fashion,” he said. “I’d anticipate a similar outcome this time. As to the House, I can’t speculate (on what will happen.)”Walter Botich, legislative chairman of Indiana Equality, a gay rights organization, said he wasn’t surprised that the Senate would give the bill a hearing, but he agrees with Pelath: “There are better things for the state to be worrying about.”He said public support for the issue has been dwindling, and Pelath agreed.“This is an issue that jumped the shark,” Pelath said, using a common phrase for an idea that has come and gone.A November poll for The Indianapolis Star and WTHR (Channel 13) showed that 49 percent of Hoosiers support the amendment, down from 56 percent in 2005.


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