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House Committee Approves Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage

The House Judiciary Committee has taken the first step toward adding an amendment to the state constitution which would ban gay marriage. The committee voted 8-4 along party lines Monday to approve Marion Representative Eric Turner’s resolution defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

Turner pointed out the state already has a law which makes the same distinction, with co-sponsor Dave Cheatham making the distinction that he believes the constitution is for outlining the state’s foundational principles, while state code is for responding to situations which may arise.

More than a dozen people testified on the resolution, from both sides of the issue. Terre Haute lawyer Jim Bopp called for its passage in order to outlaw what he called “counterfeit” forms of marriage, such as civil unions. American Family Association of Indiana Director Micah Clark called the issue similar to the just-completed Super Bowl, noting that many more people watch the NFL’s championship game than any other football contest because of its significance.

Clark said marriage would “lose its unique significance” if the right is extended to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered couples. Glenn Tebbe of the Indiana Catholic Conference said marriage is “under attack” – a similar argument as one made on the other side of the issue by Indiana Equality President Jessica Wilch, who said bill proponents are undermining GLBT rights.

Ball State University assistant professor Cynthia Conley offered an economic view, saying the state would be less attractive to potential investors if not all members of a workforce felt welcome. Additionally, Conley pointed out that the inability to marry would not stop homosexual couples from having relationships and forming households.

Indiana Equality Action Legislative Chair Don Sherfick even made reference to a frequent conservative campaign plank from the 2010 elections, saying Turner’s resolution amounts to unnecessary government intrusion into people’s lives. Sherfick also blasted the “let the people vote” slogan which has accompanied both the marriage amendment and the one placing property tax caps into the state’s constitution last year, saying that such logic effectively nullifies legislators and judges also chosen by the people.

The amendment bears the same language as laws already on the books in Kentucky and Wisconsin. It must be approved by two consecutive sessions of the legislature, meaning the earliest it could appear on the ballot is 2014.

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