Same-sex marriage ban heads for Monday hearing

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The proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state is headed for a hearing on Monday.

That announcement came out of the Statehouse Thursday morning. House Speaker Brian Bosma says HJR3 puts the decision in the hands of the voters and out of the hands of an "activist" judge. That is why he says he supports the amendment, which will be heard in the Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Linda McCrae has served as the pastor at Central Christian Church on Delaware Street for more than 11 years. She hasn't spent a lot of time at the Indiana Statehouse, but the proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in the state does have her attention.

"I think most people feel people should be treated fairly, that our legislature's job is to protect people's rights and not discriminate against some people," McCrae said as we sat in the chapel of her church that was constructed back in 1892.

"The people of Indiana deserve the right to vote to protect marriage between one man and one woman. Seven legislators should not stop the people from voting," an Advance America television ad exclaims.

The campaign is trying to put pressure on House Committee members who will be hearing the bill on Monday.

"If you believe traditional marriage should not be protected, you will vote against it. If you believe it should be, then you will vote for it," said State Senate President David Long (R-Fort Wayne).

But amendment opponents like Eli Lilly and Cummins Inc. say it will hurt their ability to attract the best and the brightest. Others say the amendment will compromise the right of same-sex couples to get health care and put those companies or universities who offer it at risk of a lawsuit.

"For most of us, we are not looking to take something away from anyone receiving it today," House Speaker Brian Bosma clarified Thursday in a media availability in his office. "If I thought it was disastrous for Indiana we would not be doing it. I certainly don't think it is. Thirty-five states have taken this to referendum. Don't know why Indiana should be eliminated from that same privilege. Nor has it proven disastrous in any of those states. In fact, eight of the top ten fast growth states have an amendment. The top five states have an amendment. I understand this is a personal issue, for many people it is a religious issue, a family issue it is a moral issue but it is not going to have a devastating effect one way or another on Hoosiers but I think it is the right thing to do."

Bosma's Democratic counterpart, however, doesn't believe this debate is necessary.

"Today was our last best chance to avoid dragging the state through this very divisive and emotional and unnecessary debate over marriage in Indiana," said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City). "We have so many other issues to be focusing on: the prosperity of our citizens; our incomes, our employment levels, the future of our job market. This is what we need to be focusing on. We don't need to be dragging our citizens through a very unfortunate and at times ugly debate that separates us along moral philosophical and cultural grounds. It is not needed."

As a committed partner in a same-sex marriage, Linda McCrae fears the debate to come.

"I have a ten-year-old son. I don't want my ten-year-old son to feel his family is any less legitimate than other families," she said.

Republican Rep. Eric Turner filed the proposal Thursday to add Indiana's gay marriage ban to the state constitution. When Turner filed the measure in 2011 it was numbered House Joint Resolution 6, or HJR 6. But this year it's HJR 3.

Both supporters and opponents have been using HJR 6 as shorthand for the amendment for months. In fact, many yard signs and other campaign material have already been printed up referring to HJR 6.

Bosma said the re-numbering was not a strategic decision. Resolutions and bills are numbered in the order they're filed. He noted that the proposed amendment was filed just recently and is only the third joint resolution filed this year.

So the debate at the Indiana Statehouse begins. The curious wonder whether this debate will bring out the best of Indiana or the worst.