News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 15, 2010

Some state reps still want same-sex marriage law

By Maureen Hayden
CHNI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — While Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has called for a “truce” on social issues like same-sex marriage, there are some Indiana legislators ready to put up a fight.

Conservative state lawmakers say they expect to re-introduce legislation in the next session that would clear the way for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Indiana already has a law that bans gay marriage, but supporters of a constitutional amendment say it would offer protection against court action.

“I'm all for it,” said state Rep. Wes Culver (R-Goshen), co-author of a bill that was blocked by House Democrat leaders when they were in control.

“At the least, it needs to come up for a vote.”

But a past opponent of the bill, state Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson), called it a “wedge issue” that could distract lawmakers from getting other work — from education reform to balancing a budget — done.

“We already have a law,” Lanane said. “We don't need to be distracted from our main goals of creating jobs and improving the lives of Hoosiers.”

Nov. 2’s election shifted power back to the Republicans, who now will hold a majority in both the Indiana House and Senate. Republican House Speaker-elect Brian Bosma and Daniels, also a Republican, left out social issues — including same-sex marriage — from their legislative priorities unveiled last week.

Daniels has also called for a “truce” nationally on social issues until economic issues are resolved. Both Bosma and Daniels said economic and education reforms, along the budget and redistricting of state and congressional legislative districts, needed to take center stage.

But Culver said socially conservative lawmakers feel energized and emboldened by the recent election.

The Indiana legislature passed a ban on same-sex marriage in 1997. The law was upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2005.

Supporters of the ban were concerned that a higher court could overturn the state law, but also are now convinced voter sentiment is on their side.

Earlier this month, three members of the Iowa Supreme Court that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage were voted out of office.

Thirty states have passed constitutional amendments that define marriage between a man and a woman. Indiana lawmakers have been attempting to do the same for several years.

For the amendment to be added to the state constitution, it has to pass two separately elected General Assemblies and then be approved in a statewide voter referendum on the next general election ballot.

Both the Indiana House and Senate approved the “Defense of Marriage” bill in 2005. The Senate approved it in 2008, but the bill was blocked from a vote in the House by then-Speaker Patrick Bauer, a Democrat who assigned it to a House Rules Committee where it died.

Both Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long have said they expect the marriage amendment bill to come up in the next session. Bosma said he’ll “allow the democratic process to work.”

Maureen Hayden can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.