February 28, 2014

Revised marriage amendment will not go to voters this year

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

A revised resolution to change Indiana’s Constitution to define marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman passed the Senate on Feb. 17 by a vote of 32-17, but since the marriage amendment was changed from the resolution that passed in 2011, it will not go to voters this year.

To amend Indiana’s Constitution, an identical resolution must be passed by two separately elected Indiana General Assemblies and then be approved by a majority of voters by referendum. The process to amend Indiana’s Constitution was in its final stages and was expected to pass the Indiana General Assembly this year, and be put on the ballot for approval by state voters this November.

While the introduced version of HJR 3 had the identical language of the resolution that passed in 2011, when the Indiana House removed the second sentence, it caused the process to be postponed.

For more than a decade, the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) has supported a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.

The Senate vote was met with mixed emotions by advocates on both sides of the debate. It now leaves the amendment in a state of limbo in Indiana.

Proponents of traditional marriage do not feel that HJR 3, in its current form, goes far enough to protect marriage because it was watered down in the House, deleting a second sentence which would have prohibited civil unions and anything similar to marriage. Opponents do not want a constitutional ban or any restriction on same-sex marriage because they claim it is discriminatory.

A push to change Indiana’s Constitution has been in the works for over a decade, said the bill’s author, Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero. He added that “not having constitutional protection makes our state susceptible to judicial interpretation.” Turner further noted that “the future of marriage belongs in the hands of Hoosiers.”

Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, a defender of traditional marriage who advocated passing the original version of HJR 3, testified in support of HJR 3 in the House. He urged the Senate to restore the second sentence language to HJR 3.

“It’s not enough to define marriage in an amendment like this, you must defend marriage,” Smith said. “That’s the lesson we have learned from the courts around the country.”

Smith quoted University of Notre Dame law professor Dr. Gerald Bradley, saying that one of Bradley’s key conclusions regarding marriage is “ ‘the most effective way to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman is by making sure that no same-sex relationship is treated in law as substantially equivalent to it.’ ”

Megan Robinson, Freedom Indiana campaign manager, an opponent of HJR 3 and supporter of redefining marriage who has led the effort to defeat the bill, said, “We remain determined to defeat HJR 3.” She added, however, that she was grateful that the Senate did not restore “the extremely dangerous second sentence that would permanently prohibit civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal protections for same-sex couples.”

Current Indiana law defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. But there are concerns that without a constitutional amendment to explicitly define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman and to disallow any similar legal relationships that are substantially equivalent to marriage, a challenge to Indiana’s current law could force Indiana to recognize marriage between two people of the same sex.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director for the ICC, who serves as the official spokesman for the Catholic Church in Indiana on public policy matters, said the soonest the amendment could be approved by a referendum by state voters would be 2016.

“While it’s disappointing that HJR 3 didn’t pass in its original form, meaning the process to amend Indiana’s Constitution will be delayed, it could prove to be a blessing in disguise,” said Tebbe. “As we have seen play out in other states in recent weeks, a successful constitutional amendment of this nature would most certainly be challenged in federal court under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The effect of this type of challenge could potentially speed up the unravelling of Indiana’s current definition of marriage, inadvertently having a reverse effect.

“So rather than protecting traditional marriage, which is the goal of this constitutional amendment, it could have the unintended consequence of putting Indiana on a fast track of being forced to recognize same-sex marriage.”

Tebbe added, “The striking phenomenon and remarkable speed of changing attitudes of the nature of marriage show that the Church has more work to do in forming the faithful on the authentic nature of marriage.

“Defending the authentic nature of marriage is going to be an ongoing struggle in our modern secular culture, and an effort our faith community will be engaged in.”

The Indiana General Assembly only has a few weeks left to conduct legislative business because it must adjourn by March 14.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion. For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, log on to www.indianacc.org. To explore the ICC’s electronic public policy tool and join the ICC legislative network, go to the ICC website and click on “Legislative Action Center.”)

Constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have adopted constitutional amendments that define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.

Of these, nine refer only to the definition of marriage; 17 both define marriage and disallow civil unions between people of the same sex; two define marriage as between one man and one woman but also disallow civil unions and other contracts unconstitutional as related to couples of the same sex; and two have been found by federal judges to be unconstitutional.

As of January 2014, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Washington, California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, New Mexico, Illinois and the District of Columbia have redefined marriage so as to allow it for couples of the same sex. †

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