Republicans introduce bill to 'clarify' marriage amendment

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Indiana House Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage Thursday, along with a supplementary bill meant to address concerns that have led some lawmakers to reassess their votes for the proposal.

Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the bill addresses questions that “people are validly raising, in most cases” by clarifying that the constitutional amendment would not prevent universities and private businesses from providing domestic partner benefits, wouldn’t impact the state’s domestic violence laws and would not usurp local human rights ordinances.

“Benefits are very clearly not invalidated through the amendment,” Bosma said.

Indiana University, for example, would continue to be able to offer domestic partner benefits that it’s leaders had worried the amendment could quash, he said.

Still, the new Republican proposal left some observers – and maybe even some lawmakers – confused about whether the amendment would still ban civil unions – which are legally like marriage.

Bosma said the amendment would prohibit civil unions, while allowing couples to retain benefits through domestic partnerships.

“Civil unions are essentially marriage by another name,” he said. “Domestic partnerships are something different, and it depends on what the nuances are on what a statute would say in that regard or somebody’s benefits would say in that regard.”

But Senate President ProTem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he wasn’t sure over the exact definitions of the two terms.

“I can’t define a civil union for you,” he said. “I am not sure I can find anybody that can effectively define a civil union for you. Domestic partnerships are more definitive. There are more of them out there.”

And Joel Schumm, clinical professor of law at IUPUI, said he believes the addition of a 70-line statute makes the legislation confusing. He said the bill only reflects the intent of the current session.

“The biggest problems are that the statute seems contradictory of the language in the constitutional amendment, and what the statute says may not be what voters want or even know about,” Schumm said. “This makes things more confusing and creates uncertainty, which can lead to litigation.”

But Bosma said, “I believe that the language gives future legislators and generations, and perhaps the current one, the ability to provide for unmarried couples regardless of their orientation. I think that it is a smart addition to make that clear.”

House Joint Resolution 3, passed two years ago as HJR 6, defines marriage as the union of one man and woman and is designed to protect an existing state law with the same language. The amendment also says that a “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

House Bill 1153 says that the second part of the amendment “prohibits the state from circumventing” the marriage definition. But it lists a variety of benefits and opportunities that cannot be restricted or infringed upon by the constitutional amendment.

Bosma said the goal is not to take something away from someone that is receiving it today, and that HB 1153 simply clarifies the legislation for educational institutions, schools and counties. He also said powers of attorney, wills and other documents would remain valid.

He said private businesses, organizations or businesses can set their own rules. “It is a decision by them, if they extend those benefits, and their benefit or insurance provider agrees to it, then those are not invalidated,” he said.

“The purpose of the amendment is solely, in my view, to protect the statute,” Bosma said.

Indiana is one of only four states to have a marriage-defining law not protected by a constitutional amendment. However, most were passed several years ago, when public opinion was more negative about same-sex marriage.

Now, public opinion polls show that even in Indiana – where the amendment was popular just a few yearsago – voters are split on the issue.

Freedom Indiana campaign chair Megan Robertson said the bill shows that the amendment was not written well the first time.

“It’s disappointing that they obviously feel there is a problem with the original language, enough that they have to have this extra bill to clarify what they originally meant,” she said. “Instead of going back and doing it right on something as important as an amendment to our constitution, they’re just going to push it through. It’s really disappointing.”

However, Bosma said it’s not unusual for a bill offering a legislative intent to accompany a measure, citing the Rockport coal-to-gas plant legislation as the most recent example. He said the supplementary bill cannot alter the clear language of the amendment but, “it establishes the intent of the legislature in adopting the amendment.” That could be useful in court.

Bosma said the marriage debate will continue regardless of whether the amendment passes and that eventually a lawsuit will be filed to try to overturn it, as has been done in 30 other states. So Bosma said he thought it was “quite appropriate” to give the courts, voters and legislators some clarity on precisely what the language does and does not do.

“To the extent that policy makers can, in an official capacity, answer those questions, I think that’s a positive for the process,” he said.

He went on to say that he was pleased by the General Assembly’s expression of intent.

But Robertson compared the addition of a secondary bill to doing one’s homework wrong the first time. Instead of redoing it and telling people what one really means, “just do it right the first time.”

She said it is not the legislature’s duty to define what the state constitution says.

“It’s a constitutional amendment, it’s approved by the voters and then it goes into the constitution and stands on its own,” Robertson said. “Unless the people – the voters – are going to approve the secondary bill as well, then it really doesn’t have much standing.”

There was also some controversy regarding the renaming of the proposed amendment. Robertson said in a statement that it was renumbered to confuse Hoosier voters.

“One thing I’ve heard is that they’ve renamed it because it has half the support it used to have, which I thought was interesting, and happens to probably be true,” she said. “I think it’s political gamesmanship that really doesn’t have any place in this process.”

Freedom Indiana has created a number of signs and advertising that refers to HJR 6.

Bosma said the numbering merely indicates the order in which the legislation was filed and that there probably won’t even be an HJR 6 this session.

Bosma also addressed concerns about how the amendment could affect business in Indiana. Officials at two of the state’s largest employers – Cummins Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co. – have said they are worried about how the amendment will affect who they can hire.

“If I thought it was disastrous for Indiana I wouldn’t be doing it,” Bosma said. “I certainly don’t think it is,” he said, noting that eight of the top 10 “fast-growth states” – including the entire Top 5 – have a similar amendment.

Still, pressure has been mounting on lawmakers about the marriage fight. Advance America – a conservative group – started television ads about the issue this week while Freedom Indiana delivered letters from 6,000 Hoosiers to lawmakers.

Bosma said he recognized that legislators could possibly face political fallout from their decision on the marriage issue. He said he tried to follow his father’s advice to “do what’s right and let the politics shake out for itself.”

“I’ve done nothing other than encourage people to vote their conscience and to do what they think is right on this issue,” he said.

He said it would be up to each member to make up his or her mind as to how to make their decision, but that, “I don’t believe most people here make their decisions based on threats, or promises, or concern for their political future.”

Bosma said he had received a pledge of unlimited campaign funding to make this issue go away. He refrained from naming the person because he or she might have violated state and federal law.

“I was shocked to receive it and brought it to that person’s attention what it sounded like,” he said.

Bosma said much of his support for the amendment – and the bill – stemmed from his desire to see the issue decided by the people of Indiana. He said he did not think it was appropriate for this issue to be decided by one judge with one plaintiff.

“My preference is that the decision in this regard, whatever it may be, is made by elected officials and ultimately the people, and not by an activist judge,” he said.

House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Pelath, D- Michigan City, echoed Bosma.

“They don’t want a single judge redefining marriage,” Pelath said. “They don’t want an activist judge making a decision”

Pelath said the marriage amendment may be the “issue of the session,” but he wants to focus on other things.

He said his chief concerns with HJR 3 were corporations providing benefits for employees, domestic violence laws, wills, living wills, visitation rights and local ordinances.

According to Pelath, the reasoning behind HB1153 was that the Republicans “felt guilty” about the questions raised by the amendment. But he said “it doesn’t actually do anything.”


  • Question re Amendment Procedure
    Doesn't Article 16 of the Indiana state that the General Assembly must pass the same proposed amendment in two consecutive sessions? If so, and if they pass this one with the added language, aren't they passing two different amendments, thus invalidating the attempt at amendment, or at the very least pushing it off any such change until the 2015 session?
  • Let. It. Go.
    There are so many other issues facing our state right now that NEED the Legislature's attention: Our cities' inability to fund basic services due to our last amendment to restrict property taxes. Our failing schools and the inequity that exists in our school funding formula (forcing medicrity in the higher-achieving schools). Pre-K education. Jobs creation and retention. Why in the world are we wasting time talking about this? It's illegal in this state anyway (sad to say), so why are we wasting precious time and money on something redundant? Let's do something constructive with the short session time and not focus on issues like this. It's absolutely ridiculous.
  • Mitch
    Wish Mitch was still governor - he NEVER would have let this move forward.
  • wow....
    Lifelong Republican here for fiscal positions, but as of right now no longer a Republican. Their hate and venom now turns my stomach.
  • It isn't you Rick, it's how you think.
    I won't go after Rick again here (I did that yesterday when he made a comment about how the country was in the shape it is in because of "too much compromise"...couldn't let that one g)...folks like Rick don't listen to other viewpoints anyway), as many here have already spoken the truth that is self evident to all but Rick, Bosma, Pelath, Romney, Pence, Eric Miller, etc. Issac Azimov, who was a rationalist and not an atheist once said, "Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly." I agree Isaac, and I resent it also.
  • So they press on
    The legislature presses on in their attempt to turn Indiana into a 36,418 square-mile advertisement for zealotry. I wonder who they think these gay people are – from whom we and our "institutions" need such (poorly-written) legal "protection"? What caricature has been implanted in their heads which has caused them to literally want the Indiana constitution to read "some people are just not as welcome here as others". It's certainly not apartheid, but it wears the same brand of perfume. Mr Bosma, this potentially unwelcome class of people are our potential creative hires. They are research experts, They are writers. They are top marketing strategists. It's not just about their benefit packages (though that matters quite a bit) It's about the reputation of the place we do our business from. They are also (perhaps most importantly, to me) among the ranks of a few of our biggest clients, past and present. Why – seriously, why – does this ostensibly pro-business supermajority want to make my recruiting and CRM jobs harder? Our reputation is partially dependent on this state's.
  • Don't Blame it on the Bible
  • Another Reply to Rick
    Rick, the proposed constitutional amendment, and now the legislation that is proposed to "clarify" it, are no more a part of Indiana's "heritage," "the ideals of its citizenry," and what is "true and right" than are Indiana's notorious KKK movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. There is absolutely nothing "bold" about an objective that, if realized, would permanently designate Indiana as hostile to a large and growing group of men and women who are our friends, colleagues, and family members. Indeed, such an objective grossly misjudges today’s social and political landscapes. This misguided effort by Indiana Republicans in emblematic of how the Republican party has lost its way, its identity, and its pull with voters. A decade of pandering to the Tea Party and the Christian-right pulpit is finally reaping dividends for Republicans: ambiguous party values, incoherent and out-of-touch policy positions, poor perception by voters, and negative press. One would think that attempting to corrupt Indiana’s constitution with a blatantly discriminatory amendment--in 2014, no less--would take a back seat to such seemingly forgotten political policy objectives as creating jobs in Indiana, attracting new investment in Indiana, and overcoming the perception that Indiana is a place you fly over. I, for one, would fear deeply for Indiana’s future if it were to become anything close to a haven for "like-minded employees and citizens" of the type you envision.
  • Separate but Equal?
    Hasn't this argument been tried before and found that it is not equal at all?
  • back to the past
    In the "Let It Out" column in the Star is this item: "Every time a Hoosier speaks, we go back 100 years." Especially when the one speaking is a Republican in the Indiana Legislature. They want to drag Indiana back 200 years.
  • here's an idea
    I have an idea. Since Bosma / Turner etc are stating they are not bigots but just want to memorialize the traditional definition of marriage, why not state in their intention clarification that: The amendment is not meant to discriminate against any LGBT citizens. If they could put it to a vote and of course it would lose would it not be great to see those idiots have to vote no. In essence admiting the amedment IS MEANT TO DISCRIMINATE
  • No leadership
    Rick - If Indiana doesn't provide equal protections under the law for GLBT citizens, we all lose. I understand how why you are optimistic, especially when State representatives have consistently done the bidding for "traditionalist" like yourself, but justice will ultimately prevail, even in Indiana. Beyond the fact that you seem to have a very elementary understanding of world history, you also seem to want to ignore current day reality that sixteen (16) countries and seventeen (17) US States (and counting) now have full marriage equality. Indiana is not somehow isolated from this cultural progression. While we may have cowardly representatives who will try and justify unfair treatment and let a majority vote on fundamental rights of a minority group, it will ultimately prove to be a waste of time and taxpayer resources.
    • Consider higher standards
      Bosma's claim that this bill "wouldn't be disastrous" is an extraordinarily low bar for such important legislation. Punching myself in the face also wouldn't be disastrous, but that doesn't conversely make it a good and beneficial plan. He, like our own hapless Rick, fail to support this bill with any concrete evidence that it exists for any reason other than to strip fundamental rights from tax-paying citizens.
    • Not a game......
      Rick, This isn't a game of winners and losers. The idea of this even being discussed means we have all lost. We are deciding the fate of basic human rights through politically charged propaganda. The definition of marriage isn't a pressing issue for society as a whole. If my neighbor is gay and married, my life will move on just as if my neighbor was gay and in an unofficial partnership. If this is already the law, then what are we even doing? This is an attempt to remove the power of people making it substantially more difficult to reverse the decision once it would be passed. I will say it again, if you believe in a religious view of marriage, you should want government as far away from it as possible. If you believe marriage is truly a social issue, then religious views should not create law. You may not be a bigot or be filled with hate, but you are confusing a social right with a personal belief system. You have the right to get married. This is a human right, not a specific group right. By pushing this, politicians have likely unleashed a counter effort to not only defeat this junk, but to work to instate full rights for gay marriage.
    • Reply to Rick
      Rick, typically, the Christian definition of marriage is reserved specifically for one man and one woman. This law, however, is discussing the LEGAL definition of marriage. The legal definition and religious definition can be different. Separation of church and state.
    • The fundamental right to marriage
      Whether stemming from anti-miscegenation sentiments or homophobia, attempts to deny "the fundamental right to marriage" is recognized as the denial of a civil right as so ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court: Loving vs Virginia (1967).
    • not
      Except, when they're not a right. Marriage is reserved specifically for one Man and one Woman. This is an important foundational truth of humanity. It can never become 'outdated'. In Indiana that is currently the law. This bill and the accompanying resolution seek to solidify and protect that ideal which all but a vocal minority seek to keep in place. As for the accusatory tones of 'charging backwards', that's a bunch of (as Joe would say) Malarkey. This bill is charging forward and boldly stating that the state of Indiana is proud of its heritage, proud of the ideals of its citizenry and willing to stand up for what is true and right. To those crying about Jobs: this bill will have zero effect on jobs, save from creating new ones from companies that want to locate in areas with like-minded employees and citizens. A few on this board will call me a bigot, say I'm what's wrong with America, etc..., but the truth is, I'm a traditionalist. I've had many gay friends and acquaintances - and have had this conversation with them - shockingly many actually agree with me. Not all, but many. And so, I continue to urge our legislature - put the Bill and the Resolution to a vote. Worst case scenario: the people decide. Then, we all can know who the winners/losers are in this debate.
      • Indiana...
        still an embarrassment. This is what happens when "lawmakers" legislate their own opinions and beliefs. Each one in favor of this, including the bill's sponsor, is not fit to be a public servant.
      • Silly
        So instead of focusing on jobs, our failing school system, pre-kindergarten education or the rising tide of student loan debt, the House Republicans are going to pick a fight over this. Good judgement there.
      • Cost of hateful actions
        How much will this hateful legilation to ban same-sex marriage via constitutional amendment cost Indiana? What dollar amount will be expended in a futile attempt to institute an expression of discrimination that the courts will, no doubt, swiftly strike down? What human capital will be squandered by those who purport that the right to marriage must be preserved solely for heterosexuals? The cost is too high; the gain nothing more than preservation of the lies used to justify prejudice.
      • shouldn't vote on rights
        The rights of a minority should never ever be put to a public vote. Civil rights are just that--rights.
      • Jobs?
        How exactly will this bill create Jobs?
      • Fools
        And again the Republicans with their direct contact with the deity are charging backward toward the 19th century (or perhaps 18th). An amendment banning same sex marriages is at best outdated doctrine, and has no more business in the Indiana constitution than prohibition had in the US constitution.

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