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Gay Marriage Amendment Hearing Ends With No Vote

Opponents of House Joint Resolution 3 sit in red t-shirts in the House chambers during a committee hearing.

People on both sides of the debate over Indiana’s proposed same sex marriage ban amendment spoke passionately for hours in front of a packed House chamber today.

The amendment is making its first legislative stop in a House committee.

The hearing ended around 1:30 p.m. with no vote, and legislators have not determined when a vote will take place.

Committee Chair Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, chose not to take a vote on the marriage ban amendment, saying he wants to give committee members time to digest the testimony.

During the hearing, the House Judiciary Committee audience was a sea of red – the color opponents of the marriage amendment known as HJR-3 chose to wear.

Those who testified before the committee in opposition to the amendment were from a diverse background, including leaders from Indiana’s business and faith communities, legal experts and average citizens.

One of those citizens is Jeremy Wentzel, a senior at Wabash College. Wentzel, who is gay, also says he’s conservative, and as he decides where to live after college, he says the marriage amendment is weighing heavily on his mind.

“I can be a young conservative anywhere,” he says. “But when it comes to being a young, gay conservative, raising a family – a strong family – and getting married, that means I just can’t be a Hoosier right now.”

But there are those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who don’t agree with Wentzel.

Reen Gutgsell, who came out as a lesbian in the ‘60s, says she’s also a Catholic and denying same-sex marriage is about upholding moral truths and traditions important for the good of society.

“Now I’m not saying that gay couples cannot raise a child. I’m not saying that at all,” she says. ” But what I’d like to know is, how does that couple explain morals and values to that child?”

The Business And Legal Implications Of HJR-3

Companies such as  Eli Lilly and Cummins, along with the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University, are united in their message to House lawmakers, the proposed constitutional amendment known as HJR-3 will hurt their ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Cummins Vice President Marya Rose says HJR-3 sends a message of intolerance that hinders her company’s ability to attract top talent.

“We will be reluctant to continue to add jobs in Indiana if our state is a less welcoming and inclusive place for all of our employees,” Rose says.

But American Family Association Executive Director Micah Clark says the recent economic performance of North Carolina dispels that argument.  He says North Carolina is the most recent state to pass a same sex marriage ban amendment.

“Numbers from the Department of Commerce found that business investment in that state had increased by 4 percent, unemployment had dropped, and the state had added 42,699 new jobs after voting to protect marriage,” Clark says.

Proponents and opponents also argued over the legal implications of the amendment.

Peter Rusthoven is a well-known Indianapolis attorney who served in the Reagan Administration. He recently argued on behalf of the state in an Indiana Supreme Court case.

Rusthoven says HJR-3 and a companion bill meant to clarify the amendment’s intent will create uncertainty as to whether things such as domestic partnerships and health benefits for same sex partners are allowed.  He says creating that uncertainty will cede control the legislature should retain.

“I firmly believe that what we now call traditional marriage has an extraordinarily important role not just in western civilization but in civilization as we know it almost everywhere,” he says. “And I believe it has a special place. But I don’t believe we should leave to the courts all this uncertainty and all these decisions.”

Terre Haute constitutional lawyer Jim Bopp, who’s argued several times before the U.S. Supreme Court and is a former Indiana Republican National Committeeman, says there is no uncertainty. He says the companion bill makes clear that the amendment does not prohibit domestic partnership benefits.

“It will solve the problem of having the judiciary steal from the people the decision on what type of marriage will protected by laws of Indiana and yes, all the red herrings will all just disappear,” Bopp says.

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