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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ind. Law - House Judiciary Committeee meeting to hear same sex marriage prohibition Monday morning

The House Judiciary Committee will meet Monday at 10:00 AM in the House Chamber to hold public hearings on HJR 3, the marriage amendment, and HB 1153, the marriage amendment ballot language plus "clarifying language." You will be able to watch the hearing live, via the General Assembly website.

Here is a list of the members of the House Judiciary Committee.

A long AP story from Jan. 9, headed "House panel pivotal in Indiana gay marriage debate," reported:

Lobbyists on both sides of Indiana's gay marriage debate have been bombarding a small group of House lawmakers pivotal in deciding the fate of a measure that would codify a same-sex wedding ban as part of the state constitution.

Even before key legislation was formally introduced Thursday, activists were focusing on the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to take up the package on Monday. Volunteers with Freedom Indiana, the umbrella group opposing the amendment have been targeting lawmakers in their home districts for months with phone calls and emails. While workers for religious conservative groups have relied in part on church fliers to get their message out.

That lobbying battle went public this week after amendment supporters bought ads targeting committee members. In the ad, mug shots of the 13 lawmakers flash on screen as a narrator argues that voting against the amendment amounts to silencing the public.

"State's marriage amendment again dominates forum" is the headline to this Sunday Bloomington Herald-Times $$$ story by Lindsey Erdody. the long story begins:
For the second day in a row, three Monroe County state legislators addressed the same issue that seems to be on everyone’s mind — Indiana’s proposed marriage amendment.

State Reps. Matt Pierce and Peggy Mayfield and state Sen. Mark Stoops attended the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce 2014 legislative forum Friday and discussed the amendment at length, only to repeat parts of that conversation Saturday morning at the League of Women Voters’ first legislative update of 2014. The state lawmakers were joined Saturday in Bloomington’s City Hall by state Reps. Matt Ubelhor and Eric Koch and state Sen. Brent Steele.

"Pressure builds for lawmakers voting on gay marriage ban" is the heading to this Sunday Indianapolis Star story by Tony Cook and Barb Berggoetz. Some quotes:
He has received hundreds of emails and letters, countless phone calls, and his face is plastered across a new television advertisement.

It's a lot more attention than state Rep. Daniel Leonard, a furniture salesman from Huntington, is accustomed to receiving. * * *

"When I voted for this in 2011, I didn't have anyone calling me, I didn't have any letters," Leonard said. "What a dramatic change. What a dramatic turnaround."

Leonard said he's a firm believer that marriage should be between one man and one woman, but like others he has concerns about the amendment's second sentence, which would ban other arrangements "substantially similar" to marriage, including civil unions.

In an effort to ease such worries, House Republican leaders introduced a companion bill that seeks to clarify the amendment's intent. That measure states that the amendment is not intended to deny employer health benefits to same-sex couples or to circumvent local ordinances that forbid discrimination.

That helps, said Leonard, but he's concerned that such clarifying legislation would carry little weight in the courts, because the 2011 legislature didn't vote on it and voters statewide wouldn't either.

"There is a faction that wants a commitment on how I am going to vote," he said. "I told them they'll know when I push the button. So they paint me as a definite no or yes because I won't commit. That really aggravates me." * * *

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who said he'd vote "hell no" if he could, expects the amendment to come up for a final vote on the House floor by Thursday because Republicans want to "reduce the pain to themselves now."

The companion bill, House Bill 1153, will only lead to more judicial intervention, not less, he said.

"I think it's very surprising we're going to tell the courts what the public meant before they vote," he said. "This is of no help to anyone, other than to pretend to be doing something."

Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane had a good op-ed piece this weekend, available here. Some quotes:
No matter how hard Republican leaders in the General Assembly attempt to frame their decision, they can’t run from the choice they’ve made. In moving forward with renamed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3, they have elected to launch a needless fight over locking discrimination into our state’s constitution. The course they’ve set will be divisive, it will likely end in costly litigation and will certainly distract the legislature from deliberating on other critical issues.

From the onset, this effort to codify prejudice has been an exercise in unintended consequences. Legal experts have cast significant doubt on the wording of the two-sentence amendment, questioning whether passage of HJR 3 would make partnership benefits offered by public universities and local governments to their employees unconstitutional.

In an attempt to ease those concerns, Republicans leaders will take an unprecedented approach, and in doing so, all but admit the amendment is poorly drafted. The leaders offered up a three-page bill in conjunction with the resolution, aiming to clarify the legislature’s intent when drafting the amendment. The only problem: when questioned this week, the Senate President Pro Tempore and Speaker of the House themselves did not know how the accompanying bill would impact civil unions or other partnership agreements. If the driving forces behind this approach are unsure of the legal ramifications, perhaps that’s reason enough to admit the amendment is fatally flawed?

For states that have gone before us in passing constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage and similar partnerships, there is a common thread: lawsuits. Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 and has been tied up in litigation since. A similarly-worded amendment has been winding its way through the Michigan courts for 9 years, piling up legal bills and doing nothing to address other issues.

Dan Cardin of the NWI Times writes:
INDIANAPOLIS | Apparently forgetting Ronald Reagan's political axiom, "If you're explaining, you're losing," the Republican leaders of the Indiana House and Senate are hoping two and a half pages of explanation can make their two-sentence marriage amendment more palatable.

Statehouse Democrats aren't buying it.

"They've got some sort of a monster they've created and now they're trying to dress up, or make the monster a little prettier," said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

"It's still discrimination; it still says certain people in the state of Indiana cannot enjoy the rights everybody else has." * * *

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, said she thinks it's "pretty audacious" for legislators to interpret the amendment for the judges and justices who will have to square existing law with the constitutional change, if it is approved by the General Assembly and by Hoosier voters in November.

"That's certainly a violation of separation of powers," Tallian said. "We don't do that. Any constitutional amendment should be clear enough to not have this."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 12, 2014 01:28 PM
Posted to Indiana Law