Gay-Marriage Ban Moves to Indiana House Floor

Party lines and predetermined votes made HJR-3 a no-contest proposal for the legislature’s Elections Committee.

After nearly four hours of testimony, the House Elections and Apportionment Committee moved the controversial gay-marriage ban to the House floor of the Indiana General Assembly yesterday. The measure cleared the committee with a 9-3 party-line vote. Seven of the Republican committee members stated to the press that they already had their minds made up or knew ahead of time that HRJ-3 was going to pass.

Although the proposed constitutional amendment was moved to the committee just 24 hours before the hearing, plenty of voices spoke out in favor of the ban, including clergy members warning against “sexual anarchy” and community leaders shaking their fists at comparisons between LGBT struggles and the civil-rights movement.

HJR-3 opponents came armed with arguments of their own. The Freedom Indiana campaign, the well-organized face of the opposition, orchestrated a lineup of university heads and leaders from major companies to speak against the proposed amendment, as well as young Republicans who said they are prepared to leave the state if the measure passes.

The proponents went first, as Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson and company sat patiently with boxes of folders and stacks of paper, waiting for their turn to speak. Rep. Eric Turner, speaker pro tempore and author of HJR-3, opened with a quick historical timeline, stating that his intention was to enshrine the definition of marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman to prevent same-sex marriage from being recognized in the future. The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) pushed the issue to this session, he argued.

Other pro–HJR-3 arguments centered on the idea that marriage is about making sure kids don’t grow up in fatherless or motherless homes; that Indiana voters should have the right to decide the issue in a November referendum; and that passing HJR-3, despite claims to the contrary, would not hurt Indiana’s economy.

Over the last few months various Indiana businesses, organizations, and universities have come forward saying that they fear legislation would drive the “best and brightest” away from the state. Proponents have countered that states that have added marriage amendments to their constitutions are in fact thriving; Rep. Turner (pictured, right) said the fastest-growing states per capita in 2011 had constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. According to a tweet from Freedom Indiana posted during the hearing, however, many of those states have allowed civil unions and domestic partnerships—something that HRJ-3 would ban.

Marya Rose, CFO of Cummins, said she “knows employees will leave our state” if HJR-3 passes, and that Minnesota’s debate over same-sex marriage cost the state $17 million. Freedom Indiana distributed 1,300 individual letters to committee members, all from Hoosiers asking the representatives to vote “no” on the measure.

John Thompson of the Indy Chamber said the issue is not about jobs but rather attracting a younger work force. This became the battle cry in response to proponents’ “positive economic impact” argument.

The longest-running speaker was by far Jackie Simmons (pictured, left), vice president and general counsel for Indiana University, which opposes the ban. “I actually felt better about my personal testimony at the last hearing than this one today,” Simmons told IM. “I think that was because some of the questions today were directed at some of the committee members not to vote in favor.”

IU has sought legal counsel from attorneys at Ice Miller, which have warned that the measure and its “legislative intent” companion bill, HB 1153, would force the university to adopt benefits for “sponsored dependents,” contrary to its current policy of providing benefits to same-sex couples. “Let’s say my best friend has breast cancer and doesn’t have health insurance,” said Simmons. “In order to provide her benefits, I might ask her to move in with me so she could be covered under IU benefits as a sponsored dependent. That would increase IU’s expense tremendously. Other universities have had to do that as a way to attract the best and brightest in the academic world.”

Afterward, a slew of young Republicans came to the podium in an attempt to persuade GOP lawmakers that the future of their party lies in voting “no.”

A few undecided legislators made everyone hold their breath during the vote (pictured, below), but in the end, it was split right down the aisle, with Republicans voting for and Democrats against.

“I truly was undecided,” Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, told IM. “I tried to come in with an open mind and listen to testimony. In support, I just thought the testimony was lacking. I had questions that were really concerns that were never answered to my satisfaction … [Same-sex marriage] is already against the law [in Indiana]. The only thing a constitutional amendment would do is change the court where it would be appealed—one where we have no clue what the outcome will be. … Why would we put our state in jeopardy of spending tens of millions of dollars and attracting lawsuits when those are dollars that we could be using for services for children of the state of Indiana?”