Indiana's Marriage Discrimination Amendment - When Bias is Blatant

Indiana's Marriage Discrimination Amendment - When Bias is Blatant

posted January 25, 2010 by: Steve Williams

Indiana's Marriage Discrimination Amendment - When Bias is Blatant

Conservatives in Indiana have managed to push SJR-13, which is often described as the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, through a Senate Judiciary Hearing by a vote of 6-4, and this piece of legislation does
everything its nickname promises – it aims to discriminate against
Indiana's lesbian and gay citizens.

Same-sex marriage is already barred in Indiana thanks to a 1997 state level Defense of Marriage Act,
something which has been upheld in Indiana's lower courts. That's not
quite enough for the folks at Indiana's self described "pro-family"
groups though. They want their prejudices nice and cemented in the form
of a constitutional amendment so as to curtail any chance of further
court challenges. They say they are not driven by animus, but just to
really twist the knife, the amendment will go to the extraordinary
length of banning civil unions too.

Who is responsible for this most recent version of the legislation? It's James Bopp, a man who, as well as authoring other anti-equality initiatives, has
been involved with a Californian lawsuit that attempts to keep secret
the identities of donors to anti-equality initiatives. It's not hard to
see why Mr. Bopp is keen on such a move, is it? He contends that this
bill is necessary so that what happened in Iowa, where the Supreme
Court found the state's marriage ban to be unconstitutional, doesn't
happen in Indiana. Proponents of marriage equality disagree, pointing
out that the bill is overreaching and mean spirited. From Indiana Equality:

"Passage of SJR-13 by the Indiana Senate will keep this harmful proposal in play and set the stage for a possible ballot initiative. If approved by the electorate, SJR-13 will
forever write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution, affecting
thousands of Hoosier families."

The amendment will now go to the Senate floor where it is likely to
pass, perhaps as soon as this coming week. There's a Republican
majority in the Indiana Senate and a version of the same-sex marriage
ban has passed every year since 2004. Counterpart resolutions have been introduced in the House as House Joint Resolutions 5 and 7 (HJR5 and HJR7).

Can we hope that the slim Democratic majority will keep the initiative from passing there as in previous years? It
should. The legislation has been assigned to the House Rules and
Legislative Procedures Committee where it stalled last year, but
pressure is mounting. Bolstered by recent victories at the ballot in
Maine and, of course, California, and knowing that many Supreme Court
decisions on the constitutionality of marriage bans have recently
appeared to favor equal access to marriage rights for lesbian and gay
partners, same-sex marriage foes want to take the issue out of the
hands of the courts as quickly as possible.

Democratic House Speaker Patrick Bauer has said that amending the state's constitution
isn't required due to the marriage ban that's already in place. He has indicated
that he would oppose the measure being brought to the floor in the
House, simply because he sees it as superfluous and as a waste of time
given the more pressing concerns of unemployment and the state's financial woes.

In other news, just weeks after New Hampshire legalized equal access to marriage for same-sex couples, several groups have mobilized to begin a repeal. While it is unlikely
that they will manage such a feet in the near future, on Wednesday the
House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from gay marriage opponents.

To get the measure on the ballot would, again, be a lengthy battle, but in
an attempt to expedite that process, New Hampshire residents against
same-sex marriage have started a campaign
ahead of this year's congressional elections to gather what has been
called "non-binding resolutions" against marriage equality, and to
voice their disquiet concerning legislators who they believe did not
represent the views of the people when they approved same-sex marriage
last year, hoping to persuade voters to punish those legislators come
Election Day.  

Meanwhile, Hawaii moved one step closer to having civil unions on Friday when the Hawaii Senate voted to approve the measure by an 18-7 vote, signaling that the Senate may have enough votes to surmount a possible
veto by the Republican governor Linda Lingle who has urged the House to
drop the civil unions bill although she has not yet indicated whether
or not she would veto.

The civil unions bill is expected to go to the House floor as soon as this coming week, although the House has
yet to make a formal commitment to voting on the measure. Supporters of
the civil union bill have said that they will probably only bring the
measure to the House floor if they are certain that they have a veto
proof majority. This would amount to 34 of the 51 lawmakers, which is
not an impossible task, but one that may be difficult.

From the Washington Post:

"It's very close," said Democratic Speaker of the House Calvin Say. "During an election year, this issue is so divisive that it may hurt many of our members." 

The bill would grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights as Hawaii
provides heterosexual married couples. The bill has met strong
opposition however, with a rally of "traditional" marriage supporters
marching last week and calling for the bill to be voted down, promising
repercussions come the congressional elections if the bill were to

That said, on Friday legislators made repeated references to the distinction
between a marriage and a civil union, with Democratic Senator Roz Baker
saying, "I see nothing in this measure that denies, hurts or harms
traditional marriage. What I see is an acknowledgment that there are
all kinds of families, that there are all kinds of relationships and
all of those deserve to be treated equally under the law."

Hawaii currently has a reciprocal benefits law which offers some of the rights
afforded to married couples in the state to gay and lesbian partners,
but does not allow access to most of the benefits and responsibilities
that are automatically afforded to married couples. Click here for a summary of what the Hawaii Civil Unions Bill (HB 444) would do.

Somewhat further afield, Nepal looks set to legalize same-sex marriage within the next few months following a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that ordered all laws that discriminated against LGBTs to be scrapped.

Until 2007, Nepal criminalized homosexuality by virtue of a law on "unnatural
sex acts", but it has since seen great progress on the issue and is now
busy hammering out a new constitution that, among other provisions,
will make "sexual minorities" equal under the law. This includes
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex citizens having equal
protection under the law:

“Rights for LGBTIs have been well drafted in the new constitution. They will ensure non-discrimination
and separate citizenship IDs for third-gendered people,” according to
Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay lawmaker speaking to the Hindustan Times.

Taking full advantage of this, Nepal would like to make itself into a
desirable tourist destination for lesbian and gay couples by, among
other things, offering travel packages that will include the
opportunity to get married at the base of Everest. Courting the so-called "pink pound,"
Nepal hopes to become the most gay friendly destination in Asia as the
government pursues its desire to maximize revenue from its tourism

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