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Friday, December 14, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Support for gay-marriage ban wavering: Powerful Indiana Republican Kenley changes his stance"

So reports Maureen Hayden of CNHI Statehouse Bureau this morning in the Anderson Herald Bulletin. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS — The last time the Indiana General Assembly took up the issue of putting a same-sex marriage ban into the state Constitution, state Sen. Luke Kenley voted for it.

But he’s not going to make that choice again.

Noting what he called the “rapidly evolving” shift in public opinion reflected in a poll released Thursday, the influential, conservative Republican said he’ll oppose such a measure if, as expected, it comes up for debate in the 2013 session.

“I don’t think putting it in the Constitution is a good idea,” said Kenley, the powerful Senate appropriations committee chairman who describes himself as a supporter of traditional marriage.

“I really value the institution of heterosexual marriage,” Kenley said. “But I do not think that putting a statement in the (state) Constitution which runs down or is bigoted toward people who have a different kind of loving relationship, that I may not understand, is going to be productive.”

Kenley weighed in on the issue Thursday during a break in a legislative preview conference in Indianapolis. Earlier in the day, conference attendees heard the results of a new poll that shows most Hoosiers hold views like Kenley: While most aren’t ready to legalize same-sex marriage, they also don’t want to amend Indiana’s Constitution to ban it. * * *

Kenley is in no way ready to legalize same-sex marriage, which is banned by law in Indiana. But he is ready to put a stop to a process that started in 2011. That’s when the Legislature voted overwhelming for a proposed constitutional amendment that bans both same-sex marriage and prohibits civil unions.

That vote was just the first step: To amend the Constitution, the Legislature must vote to approve the identical language again in the 2013 or 2014 legislative sessions, then send the issue to voters in the 2014 general election.

Only one Republican in the GOP-controlled General Assembly voted no on the measure during that 2011 vote: state Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany.

Clere, who continues to oppose the measure for a long list of reasons, said he won’t be the only Republican to vote against it the next time. “Clearly, a shift has occurred,” he said.

Clere said he’s been approached by state lawmakers who voted for the constitutional ban in 2011 but are now wavering in their support.

Some want to wait on the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently announced it will take up the issue, looking at both the constitutionality of a federal law that bans gay marriage and California’s decision to put a ban on same-sex marriage in that state’s Constitution.

But also prompting their concern is how the issue may conflict with the Republicans’ promise to focus this next session on boosting Indiana’s economy. Several prominent Indiana-based companies — including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and engines-maker Cummins Inc — oppose the measure. They say it hurts the ability of Indiana businesses to recruit top talent and sends a message that the state is an intolerant place to work and live.

“We’re still recovering from a prolonged economic recession,” Clere said. “To the extent that action on the marriage amendment could have a negative impact on economic development and job creation activities, it’s the wrong time to bring it up.”

[MORE] "Poll shows same-sex marriage support; most Hoosiers say no to constitutional ban" is the headline to this long story today by Mary Beth Schneider in the Indianapolis Star. Some quotes:
Putting the ban into Indiana’s constitution has seemed like a virtual certainty. Indiana’s House and Senate overwhelmingly voted for the proposed amendment in 2011. To get it before Indiana voters for a referendum in the 2014 election, lawmakers need only to approve it a second time in either the 2013 or 2014 sessions.

But that timetable is now looking a little less certain.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said it will take up the issue on two fronts: by looking at the constitutionality of a federal law that denies same-sex couples the federal benefits available to heterosexual married couples and by examining the legality of California’s state constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Coupled with changing attitudes, as shown in this new poll and others, some observers are saying that Indiana’s lawmakers should wait, at least until the Supreme Court acts, before rushing to get this issue on the 2014 ballot.

“It would be ridiculous to spend state dollars, time and resources on something” that the Supreme Court could find unconstitutional, said Aaron Schaler, president of Indiana Stonewall Democrats, an organization of gay, lesbian and transgendered Democrats.

Ryan England, a 31-year-old Indianapolis man who wants to marry his partner, 29-year-old Ben Snyder, said he doesn’t see why the legislature would even discuss this issue before the Supreme Court rules.

“It seems like they should have better things to do, and this is making its way through the legal system as it is,” he said.

In fact, legislative Republican leaders and Indiana’s incoming governor, Mike Pence, have not made its passage a part of their legislative agenda, focusing instead on tax cuts, education and job creation.

Thursday, at a legislative conference, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he expects a lawmaker will file a bill on the proposed constitutional amendment and it will be handled the same as any other bill.

Neither polls nor the Supreme Court, he indicated, will influence what happens.

“There have been some that have suggested we should wait to see what happens (in the Supreme Court) before taking action. I’m not certain that that’s advisable at this point,” he said.

“Will it be a priority? No. Will it be addressed? Just like any other idea of the 1,500 ideas that will be addressed this year, I’m sure there will be discussion about whether they should proceed.”

But, Bosma added: “It’s not about who can marry. It’s about who decides. It has been my personal opinion that it’s appropriate for elected officials to decide this and not unelected judges as has happened in some states.”

"State GOP to take up gay-union amendment" is the heading to Niki Kelly's story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:
Indiana state law already limits marriage to between one man and one woman.

But supporters want the public policy inserted into the state constitution so judges can’t later overturn it.

State courts have already upheld the law once.

The proposed amendment specifically says, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

The second sentence would ban future legislators from enacting civil unions in the future, and might affect things like same-sex health benefits.

The General Assembly must approve the measure again in 2013 or 2014 before Hoosiers would get the final say on the matter with a statewide vote in the fall of 2014. Not acting this year doesn’t slow the process.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson said no matter how much Republicans want to keep the discussion reasonable and calm there is a perception that this is an attack.

“And quite frankly it is. We’re placing discrimination into the constitution,” he said.

He noted a new poll released Thursday by The Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University showed only 38 percent of Hoosiers support the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage while 54 percent oppose.

More than a majority of Hoosiers also support civil unions that would give gay couples the same rights and benefits as married couples.

“This is an opportunity for us to step into the 21st century,” Lanane said. “The trend is clear on this issue. It is crystal clear. Talk to your kids, talk to your grandkids if you want to about this. They don’t get it.”

Bosma said he hasn’t seen the new poll but “Hoosiers are roughly divided on this issue and from my perspective that doesn’t change any approach. Unlike some I discourage my team from making decisions by polling.”

Gov.-elect Mike Pence declined to get involved in the topic Thursday, saying it is up to the legislature to set its agenda.

Instead, he is focusing on jobs and setting up a new administration.

In the past he has supported marriage between one man and one woman.

Gov. Mitch Daniels also is staying out of the fray, refusing in a meeting with a few reporters Thursday to comment on the appropriateness of a constitutional ban.

He did say he supports children growing up in intact homes, pointing to evidence that it lowers poverty. When asked if intact families extend to same-sex couples, he said yes.

“Well, it sure beats single parenthood. I’m personally familiar with some folks who I think are doing a very good job of parenting in a same-sex environment.

"Put marriage amendment on hold" was the title to an editorial yesterday in the Indianapolis Star. Some quotes:
The U.S. Supreme Court has just given the Indiana General Assembly a breather, if lawmakers and their leadership will only recognize it.

By agreeing to hear two cases involving the volatile issue of same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships, the high court has sent a clear signal to state governments to hold off on making decisions of their own.

Regardless of where one stands on the debate over state-sanctioned unions, the upcoming decisions on same-sex marriage bans in California's constitution and in federal law will provide essential guidance. Until then, any state action runs the risk of wasting effort and money while causing unnecessary acrimony. * * *

If the language of Indiana's proposed amendment passes muster, the process of placing it before the public would not have been affected by delay. If the proposal doesn't comply with the new standard, state lawmakers could then decide whether to rewrite or drop the effort altogether. In either case, Hoosiers will benefit from a year of welcome peace and more time dedicated to more pressing work.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 14, 2012 09:35 AM
Posted to Indiana Government