Thursday, January 31, 2008

Indiana Senate Passes Anti-Gay Amendment

(Indianapolis, Indiana) Indiana's Senate has approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure on a 39-9 vote.

Indiana already has a law restricting marriage but state conservatives fear it could be overturned in court. Republicans say that only a constitutional amendment would prevent the courts from doing that.

The Senate sponsor of the amendment, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R) said marriage should be up to the people not the courts to define.

The proposed constitutional amendment defines marriage only as the union of one man and one woman. But, it goes to say the state cannot provide the "incidents" of marriage on unmarried couples or groups.

The second part of the amendment would block domestic partner benefits from being offered state employees or institutions funded by the state, say opponents.

The Senate vote sends the measure to the House, which is controlled by Democrats.

Leaders in the House say the amendment is not needed.

House Rules committee Chair Scott Pelath (D) said he is not planning on holding hearings on the measure.

"We have a very serious problem with the property tax system and we don’t have any gay marriages in Indiana," he told reporters earlier this month.

Speaker Patrick Bauer (D) has said repeatedly that an amendment is not needed because same-sex marriages are already banned under Indiana law.

Democratic stonewalling has angered House Republicans.

Amending the constitution is a two stage process in Indiana, requiring votes in two consecutive separately elected sessions of the legislature.

It already passed the first phase in 2005, but last year Democrats killed the measure in the House.

This year if it does not pass before the March 14 deadline, amendment supporters would have to go back and begin the whole process all over. That would mean the earliest it could go to voters would be 2012.

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