Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gay-marriage ban dies in House |

Gay-marriage ban dies in House |

2008 Legislature
Gay-marriage ban dies in House
Backers of constitutional amendment must wait at least 4 years before they can try again
By Bill Ruthhart
February 16, 2008

Supporters of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages likely will have to wait at least another four years after a key House leader decided he won't consider legislation that passed the Senate.
Conservative activists and lawmakers expressed frustration Friday with the decision by Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, not to hear Senate Joint Resolution 7, the legislation that included the constitutional ban.
Pelath's decision did not come as a surprise because earlier this session, he refused to hear a House version of the legislation in his Rules Committee. His decision not to hear the Senate version of the proposal, however, is significant because it likely wipes out a decision by the General Assembly in 2005 to pass the measure.
In order to amend the constitution, two consecutively elected legislatures must pass the measure, and voters must approve it in a general election.

When Republicans controlled the House and Senate in 2005, the legislature passed the amendment. Since the Democrats regained control of the House in 2007, the effort has stalled in Pelath's committee.
"The state just needs to understand that Democrat leadership in the Indiana House is preventing them from speaking on this issue," said House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "Speaker Pat Bauer and his leadership team killed this measure in 2004, they killed it in 2007, and now they're killing it in 2008."
Bauer, D-South Bend, has said he never promised a vote on the issue, only that he'd let it move through the legislative process.
Pelath also pointed to extensive hearings on the proposal last year in his committee, which resulted in a deadlock vote.
Amendment supporters say that if the full House were allowed to vote on the measure, it would pass overwhelmingly.
Pelath and opponents argue that the state already has a law banning same-sex marriages and that the amendment's language was ambiguous and could result in unintended consequences on issues including domestic violence protection and businesses' ability to recruit employees.
"This really is a very simple decision," Pelath said. "The reality is, we have no gay marriages in Indiana. It is against the law. Nobody has brought me evidence of a gay marriage taking place in this state.
"There's no reason to put very poorly crafted verbiage into our constitution, out state's highest document, that could potentially be a lawyer's dream with all sorts of unintended consequences."
Eric Miller, founder of the conservative activist group Advance America, blames Bauer, who he said has intentionally sent the amendment to Pelath's committee to kill it.
"It is a tragedy for the people of Indiana that one man, Speaker Pat Bauer, stopped the 100 members of the House (from) being able to vote to protect marriage and prevented the citizens of Indiana from having the opportunity to vote to protect marriage," Miller said. "It's not only a disappointment, it's wrong."
Pelath rejected that argument.
"That's not what our constitution says. It doesn't just say you throw out an idea and you throw it out for a vote -- that's not how we do it," he said. "We don't send everything up for referendum here. We make decisions and do our jobs. I'm abiding by the constitution."
Walter Botich, legislative chairman of gay-rights group Indiana Equality, was encouraged that Pelath stood his ground.
"I think his decision makes perfect sense," Botich said. "The people I've talked to, their concerns have been about issues about property taxes, so it makes logical sense that the legislature spends its time on those more important issues."
Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, argued there was enough time to deal with the issue this session and that its language wasn't "hazy," as Pelath suggested.
"There's nothing wrong with the wording," Hershman said. "The concerns that were raised were a smokescreen for a fundamental difference in both sides' views on social policy."
The only way the issue could survive this session is if the amendment were attached to another piece of legislation, a prospect that is highly unlikely.
Instead, Hoosiers would have to wait until at least 2012 to vote on the measure, and that's only if it were to pass the next two elected legislatures.
"People were told a few years ago that gay marriage was going to happen tomorrow, but a few years have gone by and guess what? We don't have any here in Indiana," Pelath said. "It's not the issue they once thought it was

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