Senate Joint Resolution No. 7, known as the same-sex marriage ban, had its first reading at the Statehouse on Jan. 18 and was referred to the Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters. It is currently scheduled for debate on Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 8 a.m. in Senate chambers.
The 10-member committee, comprised of seven Republicans and three Democrats, is expected to recommend the resolution for passage and refer it to the floor for the vote.
Four of the seven Republicans on the committee, David Long, Mike Young, Richard Bray and John Waterman, are also sponsors of the bill.
Joint Resolution No. 7 affects Article 1 of the Indiana State Constitution and provides that “marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman,” and goes on to specify that “Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”
This is the same resolution Republicans attempted to pass last session, but Democrats, who then held the majority in the House of Representatives, refused to put it on the schedule.
Over the summer, Sen. John Waterman, from Shelburn, District 39, one of the sponsors of the resolution and a member of the committee assigned to the bill, sent a newsletter at taxpayer expense to his constituents defending the resolution as much needed protection against the “implementation of a larger homosexual agenda.”
According to Waterman, the “ultimate goal” of this homosexual agenda “involves the enlistment of our children. Because they can’t reproduce, homosexuals have to recruit! We must continue to fight back in order to preserve our children’s innocence,” he wrote.
Indiana already has a law prohibiting same-sex marriage, a law recently upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court.
But the ruling hasn’t deterred Republican lawmakers — who fear future challenges to the law, as well as potential changes in judicial opinion — from pursuing a change in the state Constitution.
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Robert Garton support the amendment and predict its easy passage by this year’s General Assembly.
But this amendment goes beyond prohibiting same-sex marriage. If passed, the state Constitution would prohibit unmarried couples, both straight and gay, from receiving legal status or rights conferred on married couples.
Benefits that would be prohibited for unmarried couples under the Constitution include the ability to give medical or health care directives for incapacitated or comatose partners, inheritance or estate tax exemption when a partner dies and leaves assets to a spouse, legal right to take time off under the Federal Family Leave Act and parenting-adoption rights in the case of a birth parent’s death.
No matter how long the couple has been together, a surviving unmarried partner has no claim to Social Security benefits or pension benefits. Additionally, if a married person with an individual retirement account (IRA) dies, that account can be transferred to the surviving spouse who does not pay tax. Unmarried couples do not have that benefit.
Perhaps the most serious ramifications of the amendment will be seen in the prosecution of domestic violence crimes because the amendment could also remove legal protection for anyone outside of a heterosexual marriage.
In Ohio, where a same-sex amendment was enacted on Dec. 2 of last year, a motion has already been introduced by a public defender to dismiss domestic violence charges against defendants who are not legally married to their accusers.
According to the Cuyahoga County public defender, the distinction has been made that domestic violence is for “wife-beaters, not girlfriend-beaters.”
At least one Ohio municipal court judge has already instructed those filing charges in his court not to bring any petitions for protection orders to him if the couples aren’t married, citing the constitutional amendment as rationale.
Despite widespread support by Republicans in both the House and Senate, even if the resolution passes this session, it cannot take effect for some time. The proposed amendment must be agreed to by two consecutive General Assemblies in different elections and ratified by a majority of the state’s voters as a voting question on a ballot in November of 2008.
Additional legislation being debated in House and Senate chambers this week include:
• Senate Bill 580: provides that only a married couple that consists of individuals of the opposite sex are eligible to adopt. Sponsor: Jeff Drozda (R).
• SB 585: prohibits a homosexual from being a foster parent or adopting. Sponsor: John Waterman (R).
• House Bill 1841: Provides that state appropriations may not be used for the administration, operation or programs of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. Sponsors: Cindy Noe (R), Woody Burton (R) and Marlen Stutzman (R).
Another target: smokers!
Homosexuals and unmarried couples are not the only groups targeted to lose rights under proposed legislation this session. On the heels of a Michigan employer’s recent decision to fire any employee who smokes, Republican Sen. J. Murray Clark has introduced two bills designed to give employers the right to deny employment or fire current employees who use tobacco products before, during or after work hours:
• Senate Bill 402: repeals the prohibition against an employer: (1) prohibiting an employee’s off duty use of tobacco; or (2) discriminating against an employee with respect to compensation, benefits or terms and conditions of employment based on an employee’s off duty use of tobacco.
• SB 403: permits an employer to ask a prospective employee about the use of tobacco products as a part of the interviewing procedure and to: (1) hire another prospective employee rather than; or (2) refuse to hire the prospective employee due to the use of tobacco products by the prospective employee. —LM