March 18, 2005

Indiana House will vote on constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana took a major step forward this week.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-3 Monday to send Senate Joint Resolution 7 to the full House. The marriage amendment is a measure which would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. If approved, the change in the state constitution would make it illegal for same-sex partners to marry or for more than two persons to wed.

Indiana law currently maintains that a marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that definition in a unanimous decision on Jan. 20.

However, Indiana Catholic Conference executive director Glenn Tebbe said that while the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the legislative intent of marriage in its recent decision, future challenges to Indiana’s marriage law might result in it being overturned. A change to the state constitution would keep the definition of marriage intact.

If the proposed marriage amendment passes the full House, the resolution must be approved again by both branches of a separately elected General Assembly then it must go to the voters for a public referendum. The earliest the referendum could be held would be 2008.

Tebbe testified in support of the marriage amendment at a Senate hearing on Feb. 8. During his testimony, Tebbe reiterated the Catholic Church’s official position on the issue by quoting from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ marriage statement of 2003.

“The Catholic Church believes and teaches that marriage is a faithful, exclusive, and lifelong union between one man and one woman, joined as husband and wife in an intimate partnership of life and love. Marriage exists so that the spouses might grow in mutual love and, by the generosity of their love, bring children into the world and serve life fully.”

Tebbe told the Indiana lawmakers that while marriage as defined as a union between one man and one woman is a “part of the common moral heritage” it is not just a moral issue, but an issue of societal structure that affects the common good of all­—“believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians alike.”

“Marriage is a basic human and social institution which did not originate from Church or state, but from God,” Tebbe said. “Neither Church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.”

Tebbe told senators that the institution of marriage not only “supports the well-being of children, families and communities,” but “society itself.” He said “marriage is unique because of its traditional and foundational role in societal structure.”

The Indiana Catholic Conference’s position paper supporting the marriage amendment, which was submitted to the legislature, also acknowledges the concern of fair treatment of homosexuals with regard to claims of benefits, stating, “To the extent that homosexuals or other individuals face obstacles to claims of benefits, legislative bodies may choose to address these matters. … Such questions must not be addressed, however, in a way that endangers the centrality and distinctiveness of marriage to the welfare of society.”

The Catholic Church approaches the marriage amendment from a perspective which recognizes and respects all human beings, homosexual or heterosexual, because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. The Catholic Church does not condemn a person who is of homosexual orientation, but believes that sexual acts, homosexual and heterosexual, which are outside the context of a sacramental marital union are sinful.

To read the Indiana Catholic Conference’s position paper on the marriage amendment in its entirety, go to the ICC web page at, click on Public Policy Issues/Priorites and scroll down and click on SJR 7 Definition of Marriage.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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