Tuesday, January 13, 2009

IndianaLawmakers renew push to amend constitution : Local News : Evansville Courier Press

Lawmakers renew push to amend constitution : Local News : Evansville Courier Press

Courier & Press correspondent
Monday, January 12, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS — Several Indiana lawmakers once again will push to amend Indiana's constitution to ban gay marriage, although their effort likely will fail in the House.

Reps. Eric Turner, R-Marion, and Dave Cheatham, D-North Vernon, announced Monday they are co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

They face a major roadblock in the Democratic-controlled House, where Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, has not allowed a floor vote on similar bills in previous years. His spokesman, John Schorg, said Monday that Bauer's position hasn't changed.

Indiana law already prohibits same-sex marriage, so Bauer has said he considers a constitutional amendment unnecessary.

But Turner cited "activist" judges overturning statutes barring gay marriage in other states, and said amending the state Constitution is the only way Indiana can protect one-man, one-woman marriage.

The amendment differs slightly from similar amendments that have died in the Legislature. The new language mirrors amendments that have passed in Kentucky and Wisconsin, and Turner said he hopes that will spur Bauer to reverse his position and allow a floor vote.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, was one of more than 20 representatives from self-described "pro-family" organizations and churches at Monday's news conference. He disputed opponents who he said have called the bill divisive, saying polls have shown overwhelming support for a same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana.

"This is a bridge issue," he said. "It's an issue that brings people together."

The proposed amendment has two sections. The first defines marriage in Indiana is solely the union of one man and one woman. The second part prohibits any legal status substantially similar to marriage that would provide the benefits of marriage to unmarried couples or groups.

Turner said that would bar civil unions, an intermediate measure adopted by some states to recognize domestic partnerships without granting the title of marriage.

Critics of the same-sex marriage ban amendment have cited several grounds for opposing it, noting the first part duplicates existing state law.

The second part, they have said, could have unintended legal consequences such as weakening domestic violence protections for unmarried heterosexual couples, or creating uncertainty for companies offering health benefits to employees' domestic partners.

Nationwide, 30 states, including most recently California, Florida and Arizona in November, have approved same-sex marriage bans. But the effort has failed twice in Indiana. The amendment, known as SJR-7, died last year without getting a vote in the House. The year before, it passed the Republican-controlled Senate but died in the Democratic-controlled House Rules Committee.

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