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House panel delays vote on gay marriage ban

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An effort to write a gay marriage ban into the Indiana Constitution hit a road bump Monday as a House chairman delayed a key vote on an issue that sailed through the General Assembly three years earlier.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee were scheduled to vote on the proposed ban and a companion measure, but Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, delayed the vote after nearly four hours of testimony on the issue.

"We ran out of time for one, and the speaker wanted to start session on time. Plus, I had heard from a number of committee members they wanted time to reflect on the testimony," Steuerwald said.

The panel met in the House chambers from 10 a.m. until 1:30, just before House lawmakers were preparing for their daily session in the same space.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the move hinted at possible trouble for a measure that won broad bipartisan support but little attention in 2011 amid a five-week walkout by House Democrats and skirmishes over labor and education measures.

The high-profile battle has caused some lawmakers to say they will change their votes and oppose the ban and has spurred some House committee members to reconsider their positions. Members of the panel have become the targets of high-pressure lobbying from both sides of the issue.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said it was Steuerwald's choice to delay the vote. He said that members of the Republican caucus also have been asking about a companion measure filed with the amendment, designed to clarify what the amendment would do.

"People want to be sure they're doing what's best for Hoosiers, many want to be sure Hoosiers have an opportunity to vote on it. Some want to know more details ... some are still exploring other opportunities. I don't see any change in the course at this point from where we've been the last couple years," he said.

Indiana already bans gay marriage in state law, but supporters hope that adding it to the constitution would protect it from legal challenges that have proven successful in other states. The second sentence of the measure also bans legal definitions substantially similar to marriage, but protesters and legislative leaders are undecided whether it would ban civil unions and employer benefits.

Members of Freedom Indiana, a coalition opposing the amendment, said the ban would harm the ability of employers to attract top talent to Indiana. Executives for Columbus engine-maker Cummins and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly told stories of their problems in recruiting talent from around the world.

Activists tailored their testimony to a small audience to the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee.

Jeremy Wentzel, student body president at Wabash College, talked of his dedication to conservative principles of limited government and low taxation, while also being gay. Wentzel, a Brown County native, said lawmakers' consideration of the amendment is making it harder for him to stay in Indiana once he graduates.

"I can be a young gay conservative anywhere," Wentzel said. "But when it comes to being a young gay conservative and raising a family, that just means I can't be a Hoosier now."

A few hundred opponents packed the House chamber and halls outside the House Monday as the committee heard hours of testimony. Opponents, who wore red to signal their opposition, cheered as opponents testified. The packed hallways recalled the protests of union members during the 2011 and 2012 sessions, but marriage protesters were much quieter.

A diverse group testified in favor of the amendment, although many arguments centered on the religious definition of marriage. Reen Gutgsell, a Jasper resident, said she came out as a lesbian many years ago but believes that marriage should be limited to being between one man and one woman.

"If marriage is looked on as a right, then let us remember it is a right given by God, under God's laws and God must always be at the center of that marriage," said Gutgsell, who is Catholic.

If the measure passes the House Judiciary Committee it would head to the 100-member House for consideration next. Altering the state constitution requires votes in two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly and the support of voters.

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  • Regressive
    U.S. progressive? You are fast giving away your freedoms. We have a saying in Australia about many of your senseless acts - "only in America!" You once were heroes - now you are lacking even in common sense.
  • Pot calling the kettle black
    In fact the bullying and hate speech is coming from the not-so-gays.
  • Laughing
    From over here in Australia we are laughing at your justice system. Hang what people want. Let's just find a judge who will by-pass democracy. Trouble is our gay advocates take heart from your liberalism while our system already treats them equally under law without needing "marriage". Still, they want it because you guys give it away without thought for the rest of society. Wake up U.S to the freedoms you are losing for the sake of this minority self-interest group.
  • another one bites the dust
    A federal judge just struck down Oklahoma's SSM ban. Why is Indiana even bothering?
  • jeffsfla
    Stop being so dramatic. No one is bullying you to do anything. I think it is time for you to stop the bullying of gays and lesbians and trying to dictate how they are to live their lives.
    • To "For it"
      If you can't tell the difference between two adult humans having a consensual relationship and a human having a relationship with a dog, please stay away from my dog.
    • WHAT A WASTE
      This is clearly unconstitutional. Why is our inept state legislature wasting their time on this? You know why? Because they don't have any solutions for the real problems facing our state.
    • OKLAHOMA
      BREAKING: Federal judge strikes down Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage
    • same rights as everyone
      Same rights as everyone REALLY Married couples get tax advantages that is keepintg MONEY for being married. If you cannot marry you do not get this benefit. What does that spell STATE SPONSORED DISCRIMINATION Get It!!!!!
    • The Same Rights for All
      I disagree with "For It" when he says that gay people have the same rights as others who can marry. That is clearly not the case, and that is what this debate is all about. You define having children as the reason for marriage yet many straight couples marry with no intention of having children and they do not have them. Should that be a legal requirement based on your definition of marriage? No one is asking you to marry a gay person, or any person, so why do you feel this is impinging on your rights? You might spend a little time understanding that same sex attraction is natural to some people, and it can never be otherwise for them. Society's judgement and current law has influenced many gay people to marry the opposite sex and end up creating unhappy situations for their spouses and children later in life. How does that strengthen marriage, society, or family? Let's get out of the Dark Ages finally and stop selectively using religion to hide behind like the proponents of slavery and racial inequality did in the past.
    • In a mirror darkly...
      I don't mind that [straight] people want to be with other [straight] people and follow the [religious] practices that they do. I don't agree with what they do, but I'm not hateful or speak out against it. But, I don't like to be bullied either. Just because the [religious] community believes what they do is acceptable doesn't mean that everyone else does and we all have to be forced-fed their beliefs and we have to adapt. The challenge from the [religious] community around the definition of marriage is a bullying tactic and one that I don't appreciate. Also, []defining what marriage is can be dangerous. Anyone[, instead of just a religious majority,] would then be able to define marriage based upon what they feel is "right" for them and what they want it to be. This now creates [ridiculous slippery-slope fallacies about] folks marrying things such as inanimate objects. You may say that I am taking this too far but, just "Google it". There are people marrying bridges, dogs, etc.[, all of which are publicity stunts not performed because two human beings love one another.] It is just crazy. In the end, you can even take [sexuality] out of it. Even in nature [there is no such thing as marriage]. If the [religious] community wants to deviate from that, then fine. But don't try to bully everyone else into cheering and celebrating your [religious] decision. It doesn't make you a hero and I for one really don't care what you do in your [church]. Just leave me out of it and don't force it on me. You have the same rights as everyone else already.
    • For it.
      I don't mind that gay people want to be with other gay people and follow the sexual practices that they do. I don't agree with what they do, but I'm not hateful or speak out against it. But, I don't like to be bullied either. Just because the gay community believes what they do is acceptable doesn't mean that everyone else does and we all have to be forced-fed their beliefs and we have to adapt. The challenge from the gay community around the definition of marriage is a bullying tactic and one that I don't appreciate. Also, re-defining what marriage is can be dangerous. Anyone would then be able to define marriage based upon what they feel is "right" for them and what they want it to be. This now creates loopholes for folks marrying things such as inanimate objects. You may say that I am taking this too far but, just "Google it". There are people marrying bridges, dogs, etc. It is just crazy. In the end, you can even take religion out of it. Even in nature that a male and female just make sense as it is critical for pro-creation and the survival of the species. If the gay community wants to deviate from that, then fine. But don't try to bully everyone else into cheering and celebrating your sexual decision. It doesn't make you a hero and I for one really don't care what you do in your bedroom. Just leave me out of it and don't force it on me. You have the same rights as everyone else already.
      • Interesting
        I cannot help but find it fascinating that Mr. Bosma et al indicated that this was not an important issue. Really? Then, why was this the FIRST issue sent to Committee? We're all used to politicians outright lying to us, but when they clearly pander to organizations that fully fund their campaigns??? And, when we desperately need to concentrate on employment issues, children and their education, and other budgetary issues, why are we spending ALL of the legislature's time on this issue? Within a few years time, this will be a non-issue and the citizens of the great state of 18th century Indiana will be ashamed of themselves. Or, their children and grand-children will. Really, just explain to all of us how this improves our state's economy? Isn't that what you are paid to do?
      • Too late
        Johnny: Indiana already looks foolish for giving this dumb, discriminatory idea even one minute of legislative time.
      • Indiana's motto
        We're not the crossroads of america...after reading about so much opposition to mass transit and so much support for writing hate into our constitution, we are the land of wide roads and narrow minds.
      • Waste of Time
        As the rest of the country moves forward and becomes progressive, Indiana again and again decides to be the Mississippi of the north. The idea of adding an amendment to our state constitution to "ban" marriage equality is a waste of time and tax payer's money. When your state's largest employers are against it, you'd better listen. Indiana is going to look pretty foolish when the Fed decides to make marriage equality mandatory in all 50 states - and that's coming folks, whether the right-wing likes it or not.

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