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Indiana gay marriage amendment advances


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Indiana gay marriage amendment advances

Voters may face measure in 2008 elections

Southern Voice


Feb 1, 9:15 AM

Mary Ann Cantwell walked to a podium and told an Indiana Senate committee that she has eight children. Seven of them can marry in Indiana, she said, but her son Mike can't because he's gay.

"None of them would be hurt if Mike is given the right they have and I can't see how anyone would be harmed," said Cantwell. Her son Louis Mahern is a former state senator and her son Ed Mahern is a former state representative.

"God made Mike and he made him a homosexual," Cantwell said. "Are you going to argue with God's creation?"

Cantwell was one of several people who testified Wednesday on a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved it two years ago, but it must pass this session or next without any changes and then win a statewide vote in the 2008 general election to become official.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard three hours of debate on the amendment Wednesday before endorsing it 7-4 along party lines, with all Republicans voting for it and all four Democrats against.

Just before the vote, a group of gay-rights activists in the Senate gallery started singing "We Shall Overcome" in protest of an outcome they obviously thought was certain. Sen. Richard Bray of Martinsville, the committee chairman, said demonstrations were out of order but the people only sang louder before they were escorted out of the gallery by state troopers.

It was a more subdued protest than in 2005, when some opponents yelled "Shame!" after yes votes were announced in a House committee and a large group marched down to the governor's office chanting the same.

Proponents of the amendment said Wednesday that even though state law prohibits gay marriage, a constitutional ban is needed to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage from lawsuits and activist judges.

"If you choose not to let the people vote on this amendment, the state of Indiana and its citizens who cherish marriage will be placed in the position of defense," said Christopher Stovall, an attorney member of the Marriage Litigation Fund at the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund.

Some opponents of the amendment argued that it was simply discriminatory, but others said a provision could have unintended consequences on laws and policies that affect all unmarried couples.

The amendment has two sections, the first saying that marriage in Indiana is solely the union of one man and one woman. The second says that the state constitution or state law cannot be construed to provide the benefits of marriage on unmarried couples or groups.

Opponents said the second provision was vague and could be used to nullify domestic violence laws that apply to married and unmarried couples, as well as contracts that unmarried senior couples sometimes have to retain inheritances and share legal, financial and health care decisions.

Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, legal counsel for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said the section would make Indiana's domestic battery laws unconstitutional because they currently cover spouses and those who are unmarried but considered "live-in spouses."

The Ohio Supreme Court is considering whether that state's gay marriage amendment conflicts with its domestic battery laws. The case stems from a judge's decision to dismiss a domestic violence charge against a man who argued that it conflicted with the amendment. The charge was later reinstated by an appeals court and the man appealed to the state's highest court.

Attorney James Bopp told the Indiana Senate committee that Ohio's provision is significantly different from Indiana's proposed amendment.

He said the Ohio amendment barred the Ohio Legislature from applying benefits of marriage on unmarried couples, but Indiana's proposed amendment would only prohibit a court from ordering that unmarried couples receive marriage-like benefits. The General Assembly could still pass laws giving such benefits to unmarried couples, as it has done in the past, he said.

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