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Updated: Indiana House committee expected to vote on marriage equality ban amendment today

Civil Unions LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality

The Indiana House Judiciary Committee will today hear testimony on a proposed constitutional amendment that would join a statutory ban to make marriage equality an even-more-distant hope in the Hoosier State.

The bill, introduced just last Thursday, is justified by supporters as an attempt to protect against legal challenges to the state’s current state law prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.  It was approved by lawmakers in 2011 and must pass the current legislature in order to go before voters in November and then, in theory, into the state constitution.

Unsurprisingly, pressure on swing lawmakers has grown in the past few weeks, as the Indianapolis Star reports:

Indiana Rep. Daniel Leonard, a furniture salesman from Huntington, Ind., has received hundreds of e-mails and letters, and countless phone calls. His face is even plastered across a new television advertisement.

“I’ve been back in my furniture store since 9 a.m. and the phone has been ringing off the hook,” Leonard said Friday.

It’s the price of being a potential swing vote on the committee.

It will be the first vote of this year’s legislative session on the divisive topic, which has made Indiana ground zero in the national debate over gay marriage.

All four Democrats on the committee are expected to vote it down, but three Republicans have to join them in order to defeat the amendment. The odds of that happening are slim to none, many say, though that’s not stopping groups on either side of the issue from mounting aggressive campaigns.

The bill’s fate, according to the Star, rests in the hands of three Republican representatives: Daniel Leonard, Wendy McNamara and Jerry Torr.  All three voted in favor of the amendment in 2011, but have not publicly stated how they will vote this year.

Some lawmakers–Leonard amongst them–have expressed concern with the proposed amendment’s second sentence, which would prohibit any legal arrangement for same-sex couples that is “substantially similar” to marriage, in effect outlawing domestic partnerships and civil unions as well.  Republican leaders in the House have introduced a companion measure to the amendment bill in order clarify the local anti-discrimination provisions and currently-offered employer health benefits would not be affected.  It’s unclear at this point whether that will put those concerns to rest, however.

We’ll have an update today after the committee vote!

Update (3:00 p.m. Eastern): After almost four hours of testimony, the House Judiciary Committee recessed without holding a vote:

We’ll have more updates as they come in, but for now, a rally against HJR3 is planned for tonight at 6 at the Indianapolis Artsgarden.

Help us travel to Denver this spring to cover oral arguments in the Utah marriage equality case. You won’t regret it, and you can help EqualityOnTrial be a part of history in the making.  Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to EqualityOnTrial in the new year to help us continue this mission–any amount helps!

23 Comments

  • 1. Seth From Maryland  |  January 13, 2014 at 9:17 am

    OMG many of Legislature members are destroying allience points

  • 2. davep  |  January 13, 2014 at 10:16 am

    So this "is justified by supporters as an attempt to protect against legal challenges to the state’s current state law". They might want to take a look at how well that worked in other states where these State Amendments have recently been tested for constitutional compliance in the courts.

  • 3. Seth From Maryland  |  January 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

    no vote today

  • 4. Jesse  |  January 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

    The authors and supporters of this bill are just going to embarrass themselves if they aren't doing their homework on current events regarding challenges to state bans on marriage equality.

  • 5. Seth From Maryland  |  January 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

    they didn't at all, the amd was ripped in the hearing today, i think a very stong chance it could be defeated tomm

  • 6. Anthony  |  January 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Did they even bring up the fact that Utah's state ban was invalidated? Or how Indiana's current laws are preventing people from accessing benefits?

  • 7. Warren  |  January 13, 2014 at 11:26 am

    A last ditch attempt to hold off the inevitable.

  • 8. davep  |  January 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

    hi Seth, Got any links or details about what happened in the hearing? Sounds interesting!

  • 9. Chad  |  January 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Anthony. Do you think the republicans on the committee care about gay people being denied benefits? Utah's case is on appeal, so that is not final, and won't be for months

  • 10. Steve  |  January 13, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Remember that these are people who don't think they really belong to the United States, or rather that this membership doesn't come with the obligation to follow the Constitution. They think states can just do anything they want.

  • 11. Steve  |  January 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Denying benefits is precisely what they want.

  • 12. Zack12  |  January 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    One more thing,they tried to give us assurances that we can still have private contracts etc.
    I'm sure all of us,either through knowing someone personally or reading stories here or elsewhere know that isn't true.
    One the gay marriage bans are in place,they go after all other forms of protection we have as well.
    They want us to go back in the closet,period.

  • 13. Eric  |  January 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I'd still like an explanation of how one privately contracts for spousal privilege.

  • 14. Anthony  |  January 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Luckily, we still get federal recognition in all 50 states. And most of the marriage benefits come at the federal level. So all a gay couple needs to do is just get married in another state and return home!

  • 15. Dr. Z  |  January 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Which raises an interesting issue: probate. If one member of a SSM dies without leaving a will, Federal recognition won't help much. Probate is governed by state law. Ordinarily when someone dies intestate the spouse inherits; also, marriages tend to automatically invalidate previous wills. But what happens if that marriage is not recognized under state law? If nothing else this scenario points out the fallacy of assuming that private contracts can approximate what marriage does.

  • 16. Eric  |  January 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    The missing state laws (e.g., family law) are a pretty big deal.

  • 17. matt  |  January 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    So happy I moved out of that state.

  • 18. Anthony  |  January 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Back to the Supreme Court we go!

  • 19. grod  |  January 13, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Ohio's Judge T Black December ruling on the right to remain married and to have valid marriages recognized might well make it beyond the Six Circuit Appeal Court to the Supreme Court. While essentially DOMA Section 2, an aspect of 15 of the 25 or some cases currently before the courts has as an aspect recognition of out of state marriages. http://www.gbfirm.com/litigation/documents/61_65-

  • 20. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    And who pays for those private contracts? The state?

    In effect, it does when there is a marriage license. Spouse can make a decision on medical procedures, but even a medical power of attorney can be rejected by an individual hospital (or even an individual hospital person).

    And those private contracts EACH cost as much or more than a marriage license. How many private contracts would we need, at what cost, to cover all that is covered in a marriage license?

    In short, the assurance about private contracts is nothing more than hot air.

  • 21. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 13, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Ditto, more than 40 years ago.

    And unbeknownest to me at the time, I moved to the state (Maryland) where many of my ancestors were among the earliest colonists (among the original colonists on the Ark and the Dove).

  • 22. grod  |  January 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Big business is opposed to ballot initiative: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-new

  • 23. Greg Hasty  |  January 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    This issue has a lot of moving parts, some behind the scenes, that make it interesting to follow. I know, I know what you are thinking…interesting and Indiana in the same sentence?! The House speaker, Brian Bosma, finds himself, undoubtedly, in an uncomfortable position. Support for this ban was much greater in 2011 when he first introduced it and pushed its passage. Now, he is torn between 2 factions of his own Republican party, those social conservatives-often represented by faith based organizations, and the younger more socially liberal Republicans. Challenging him even further, as discussed earlier, is the fact that as every day passed this summer a new major Indiana corporation with global reach or major public University joined in a grassroots opposition. Some fearing an inability to draw top talent from across the country with such a divisive law, others flatly stating discrimination should not be written into this states constitution. The suspense ended when the house session began in early January, with Bosma clearly stating the Bill would be introduced, but that it wasn't "at all" a top priority of the party's legislative platform for this session. No more than a day passed before the bill was in fact introduced and assigned to the prestigious judiciary committee. Four hours of impassioned debate and discussion delayed a vote, most believe because the votes were not there for passage of this bill. It is supposed that at least 3 of the groups Republicans were voting with the groups 4 democrats to defeat the bill in committee, thus killing the chances of it reaching the ballot in November, and ending the page on this bill. FYI, any bill to introduce a change to language in Indiana's Constitution requires the passage of 2 consecutive legislative sessions, without any changes to the bill, and then a vote to pass by citizens. This bill passed in 2011. If it does not make it out of committee the chances of Indiana seeing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships will fade as quickly as the states aging socially conservative faction. It should be said, Indiana does prohibit same-sex marriage, or any equivalent by statute.
    Brian Bosma has threatened to change committee members to ensure this bill makes it to the whole floor if he believes he does not receive the votes necessary. He has also mentioned moving the bill to another committee with Republicans he is sure will pass the bill out of committee.

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