Republicans walk out of House, again

Published: .
Updated: .

Indianapolis, Feb. 25 (AP) - A partisan standoff in the House over a proposed state constitutional ban on gay marriage intensified Wednesday when Democrats refused to give Republicans a chance to advance the legislation.

Republicans took the floor Wednesday afternoon, but walked out moments later when Democratic Speaker Patrick Bauer would not recognize House Minority Leader Brian Bosma to speak on the issue.

The Indianapolis Republican made his request repeatedly, and Bauer retorted each time, "We're going to do the people's business." Bauer has tried to deny any vote on the proposed constitutional amendment, saying a state law banning gay marriage is sufficient.

"This is the most critical piece of the people's business," Bosma shouted. But the speaker called on Democrats to present motions on other bills, and Republicans walked off, denying a quorum needed to continue business.

As they left the chamber, some Democrats heckled them. "Weren't you elected to represent your district?" shouted Rep. John Frenz, D-Vincennes.

It was not clear whether the parties could end the stalemate and keep scores of Senate bills from dying. Wednesday was the deadline for the House and Senate to amend bills from the other chamber and keep them alive.

House members from both parties did not seem overly concerned about that, since several major proposals passed by each chamber have been rejected in the other. And technically, a bill that passes one house can be revived in conference committee negotiations set for next week.

The House, which Democrats control 51-49, came to a standstill Monday as Republicans sought a vote to override Bauer's decision to shelve the proposed amendment. It had passed with bipartisan support in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans refused to take the floor, preventing action on other bills. The House was scheduled off Tuesday and did not meet.

Republicans took the floor so the House could officially reconvene Wednesday, but the chamber recessed shortly afterward so both parties could meet separately and privately to discuss the issue. The House was expected to reconvene at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Republicans say they have only sought an assurance from Bauer that their motion to "blast" the proposal to the floor be recognized and considered. The procedural maneuver is rarely tried, and one veteran lawmaker says it has never succeeded during his 34 years in the House.

But Bosma has said the sanctity of marriage was at stake and worth fighting for during the closing days of the session.

Bauer says Republicans are trying to subvert the legislative process to score political points over a proposal that is not needed, since state law already bans gay marriage. But he also has acknowledged that some House Democrats are feeling pressure over the gay marriage issue.

President Bush said Tuesday he would back a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to end "growing confusion" that arose from court decisions in Massachusetts and San Francisco that have permitted more than 3,000 same-sex unions.

A proposed amendment at the federal level becomes part of the U.S. Constitution if it is ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the 50 states.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)