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Senate gets resolution on marriage, civil unions

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The Senate Judiciary Committee spent most of its time this week discussing the definition of marriage in Indiana and whether a constitutional amendment should be sent to voters to make it tougher for courts and legislators to rewrite how they handle both gay marriage and civil unions.

Committee members heard about two hours of testimony Wednesday in the Senate chambers before passing Senate Joint Resolution 13 by a 6-4 vote along party lines. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Indianapolis, SJR 13 would create a constitutional definition of marriage being between a man and woman. It also would say that "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals" wouldn't be recognized legally. A similar marriage amendment failed to pass the last legislative session and as a result never went before the voters.

The language in this Senate resolution mirrors what's proposed in House Joint Resolution 5, which was introduced by Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, and remains in the Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures.

At the recent committee meeting, lawmakers heard heated testimony from both sides and delved into a myriad of topics such as equal protection and discrimination, business competition, and religious practice as it applies to everyone in the state.

Yoder told his colleagues that this measure is more strictly focused on civil unions than it was in the past and is specifically aimed at stopping what some describe as "counterfeit marriages" between the same-sex couples. The constitutional amendment is needed now because of legal challenges that have materialized in other states, and Indiana should take the step that 30 other states have done, he said.

Supporters said it would have no effect on domestic-violence laws or domestic-partner benefits, as well as no influence on contractual arrangements or adoptions. This puts into the constitution what's already been in place in Indiana for more than two decades: the Marriage Defense Act, or Indiana Code 31-11-1-1. And by amending the constitution, it would stop any challenges that could be interpreted differently by the Indiana judiciary, or any action legislators could take in repealing or revising that state statute.

"Homosexuals can still marry ... they just have to marry someone of a different sex," said Terre Haute attorney James Bopp, who is involved in several high-profile anti-gay-rights cases including the California one involving Proposition 8. "We shouldn't wait for that fanciful case that's going on in California. We should take the step to protect (marriage) against our state courts from seizing control of this issue against the will of the people."

But J.T. Forbes, state government relations director for Cummins, said the business world disagrees about the possible impact and doesn't support the resolution.

"We embrace diverse perspectives ... but this sends the message that Indiana doesn't welcome people of all backgrounds, and it can be perceived as intolerant of diversity," he said, adding that 87 percent of companies ban sexual-orientation discrimination and 67 percent offer domestic-partner benefits in some fashion. "We worry that this amendment would force us to scrap those benefits and send the message that discrimination based on sexual orientation is OK."

More than a dozen people testified at the hearing, including American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana Executive Director Gil Holmes in opposition, attorneys with varying viewpoints, a Kentucky lawmaker who'd been a part of that jurisdiction's adoption of a similar amendment, and priests and parents on both sides of the issue.

Voting for the bill: Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville; Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger; Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport; Sen.Travis Holdman, R-Markle; Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis; and Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

Sens. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; Tim Lanane, D-Anderson; and John Broden, D-South Bend voted against the measure. Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette didn't vote.

Explaining their votes, Randolph indicated he'd changed his vote based on the testimony he heard, and Lanane said he was specifically against it because of the civil-union impact and the economic impact this could have. Taylor said he felt this measure is discriminatory and ties the hands of future generations.

"Who am I to decide what makes everyone else happy?" Randolph said, noting that he supports a marriage between one man and woman. "I can see the underlying effects of what this could mean, and I can't interject my personal feelings and thoughts onto how you feel."

If SJR 13 passes the Senate and House this session, it would still need to be approved during the 2011 session before it could be put on the ballot for voters to decide.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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