Some revive calls for Indiana gay-marriage ban

INDIANAPOLIS — Religious leaders, conservative groups and some Indiana lawmakers are renewing calls for a constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

Supporters are trying a different tactic this year — changing the wording of the proposed amendment — but like prior efforts, the push doesn’t seem to have much of a future.

House Speaker Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) said amending the state’s constitution isn’t necessary because Indiana law already prohibits same-sex marriage.

“We certainly don’t want to waste the public’s time when we have the critical duties that we have,” Bauer said.

Reps. Eric Turner (R-Marion) and Dave Cheatham (D-North Vernon) held a press conference Monday urging Bauer and the House Rules Committee chair to let the proposal move through the legislative process. They said the amendment is needed because courts in other states have tried to strike down statutes on marriage.

“Marriage between one man and one woman is a fundamental value in our state and should be protected by placement in our state constitution,” Cheatham said.

Turner and Cheatham were joined by other lawmakers, church leaders from several congregations and representatives from groups including Advance America and the American Family Association of Indiana.

The proposed amendment would add the following to the constitution: “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

That’s different than the proposed amendment suggested in years past, which said in its second sentence that state law “may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

Turner said he thought the new version was clearer, and would prohibit same-sex marriage without affecting domestic-partner benefits offered by many companies and universities.

House Rules Committee chair Rep. Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said he would take a look at the proposed amendment if the resolution is assigned to his committee. But he said Indiana’s current law is working, so he would likely be inclined against giving the issue a hearing.

“We haven’t had any gay marriages that I’m aware of since the law’s been taken into account,” he said.

The GOP-controlled state Senate has voted three times since 2005 to pass a proposed amendment banning gay marriage, which would have to pass two consecutive, separately elected General Assemblies and then win approval in a statewide vote to take effect. Measures have twice died in the Democrat-controlled House before coming up for a vote of the full House.

If a constitutional ban is passed in either the 2009 or 2010 sessions, it would also have to pass again in either 2011 or 2012 to be eligible for a statewide vote in November 2012.