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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

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

Updating this ILB entry from Dec. 15th, Maureen Hayden, CNHI Statehouse Bureau, expands on her earlier story today in the Logansport Pharos Tribune. The story begins:

INDIANAPOLIS — Some Republican state legislators are calling for the Indiana General Assembly to slow down on the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, offering a variety of reasons why the effort shouldn’t go ahead.

Both publicly and privately, GOP lawmakers are expressing doubts about a measure that saw wide support in past sessions and they cite changing public opinion on whether the state’s current ban on same-sex marriage should be locked into the state’s constitution.

Republican State Rep. Jud McMillin, a Brookville lawyer who sits on the House committee expected to hear the measure, thinks it needs to be put on hold this session. He cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to take up the issue of whether state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage are legal and wants the Indiana legislature to wait on the court’s ruling.

“I just think it would be irresponsible for us to be putting something in the public hands when we know the Supreme Court may come down and rule on something that may alter our ability to do that,” McMillin said.

Republican State Rep. Ron Bacon of Boonville, who voted for the constitutional ban two years ago said he wouldn’t vote for it again this time.

Bacon’s reasons are two-fold: He agrees with McMillin that the legislature needs to wait for the court ruling, but he also objects to the language in the measure that would create a constitutional ban on civil unions as well as same-sex marriages.

“That’s a step too far,” Bacon said.

Their concerns are significant, given that Republicans control the Indiana legislature and that the amendment faced almost no GOP opposition in the past.

On the Senate side, both state Sen. Pete Miller of Avon and his fellow Republican state Sen. Luke Kenley of Noblesville have gone public with their opposition.

Neither are supporters of legalizing same-sex marriage, but both say a sweeping constitutional ban isn’t needed.

“It’s already illegal,” Miller said. “What’s to be gained other than ostracizing a whole section the population?”

Miller echoed the concerns expressed by Republican state Rep. Ed Clair of New Albany. Both Miller and Clere cite the opposition coming from some of Indiana’s biggest employers, such as Columbus, Ind.-based engine maker Cummins, Inc., that say such a ban would hurt their efforts to recruit top talent.

“If we’re trying to attract the best and brightest people to work in Indiana, this doesn’t help,”Miller said. “It’s not just putting out a sign to gays and lesbians saying, ‘You’re not welcome.’ It sends a signal to a lot of talented young people that we’re not a welcoming place.”

Last month, Kenley – an influential, conservative lawmaker who holds the powerful position of Senate appropriations chairman – cited what he called the “rapidly evolving” shift in public opinion on the issue as one of the reasons for his opposition.

Putting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions would handcuff future legislators from altering the current law through the legislative process. Kenley also said he opposed putting what he called “bigoted” language in the state constitution.

Privately, several key Republican lawmakers have told their colleagues that they won’t vote for the measure, which is part of a two-step process that would put the issue to a public referendum in 2014.

Related today, Indianapolis Star writer Matt Tully's column, which is headed "Amendment to ban same-sex marriage is among worst of bad ideas." Some quotes:
This is the time of year, these early days before the General Assembly gets down to work, when reports come out almost daily about some misguided idea advanced by some misguided lawmaker in a misguided attempt to legislate his or her vision of Indiana. * * *

The worst of these bills usually don’t make it very far. They land in the legislative garbage can, killed off by common sense. But some misguided ideas survive like weeds, regardless of the damage they threaten to inflict on the state, and no matter how bad or counterproductive or mean-spirited of a message they send.

This brings me to the drama over perhaps the worst piece of public policy the legislature has considered this century: a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Put bluntly, this amendment would put into the sacred state constitution a public endorsement of discrimination.

Now, same-sex couples are already prohibited by law from getting married in Indiana. And as wrong as that law is, slipping the measure into the more concrete constitution would be worse, and it would be contrary to the fundamental spirit behind the existence of constitutions in this country: to protect and guarantee freedom.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 9, 2013 09:17 AM
Posted to Indiana Government