INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An effort to write a gay marriage ban into the Indiana
Constitution hit a road bump Monday as a House chairman delayed a key vote
on an issue that sailed through the General Assembly three years earlier.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee were scheduled to vote on the
proposed ban and a companion measure, but Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon,
delayed the vote after nearly four hours of testimony on the issue.
"We ran out of time for one, and the speaker wanted to start session on
time. Plus, I had heard from a number of committee members they wanted time
to reflect on the testimony," Steuerwald said.
The panel met in the House chambers from 10 a.m. until 1:30, just before
House lawmakers were preparing for their daily session in the same space.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the move hinted at possible trouble for
a measure that won broad bipartisan support but little attention in 2011
amid a five-week walkout by House Democrats and skirmishes over labor and
The high-profile battle has caused some lawmakers to say they will change
their votes and oppose the ban and has spurred some House committee members
to reconsider their positions. Members of the panel have become the targets
of high-pressure lobbying from both sides of the issue.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said it was Steuerwald's choice
to delay the vote. He said that members of the Republican caucus also have
been asking about a companion measure filed with the amendment, designed to
clarify what the amendment would do.
"People want to be sure they're doing what's best for Hoosiers, many want to
be sure Hoosiers have an opportunity to vote on it. Some want to know more
details ... some are still exploring other opportunities. I don't see any
change in the course at this point from where we've been the last couple
years," he said.
Indiana already bans gay marriage in state law, but supporters hope that
adding it to the constitution would protect it from legal challenges that
have proven successful in other states. The second sentence of the measure
also bans legal definitions substantially similar to marriage, but
protesters and legislative leaders are undecided whether it would ban civil
unions and employer benefits.
Members of Freedom Indiana, a coalition opposing the amendment, said the ban
would harm the ability of employers to attract top talent to Indiana.
Executives for Columbus engine-maker Cummins and pharmaceutical giant Eli
Lilly told stories of their problems in recruiting talent from around the
Activists tailored their testimony to a small audience to the 13 members of
the House Judiciary Committee.
Jeremy Wentzel, student body president at Wabash College, talked of his
dedication to conservative principles of limited government and low
taxation, while also being gay. Wentzel, a Brown County native, said
lawmakers' consideration of the amendment is making it harder for him to
stay in Indiana once he graduates.
"I can be a young gay conservative anywhere," Wentzel said. "But when it
comes to being a young gay conservative and raising a family, that just
means I can't be a Hoosier now."
A few hundred opponents packed the House chamber and halls outside the House
Monday as the committee heard hours of testimony. Opponents, who wore red to
signal their opposition, cheered as opponents testified. The packed hallways
recalled the protests of union members during the 2011 and 2012 sessions,
but marriage protesters were much quieter.
A diverse group testified in favor of the amendment, although many arguments
centered on the religious definition of marriage. Reen Gutgsell, a Jasper
resident, said she came out as a lesbian many years ago but believes that
marriage should be limited to being between one man and one woman.
"If marriage is looked on as a right, then let us remember it is a right
given by God, under God's laws and God must always be at the center of that
marriage," said Gutgsell, who is Catholic.
If the measure passes the House Judiciary Committee it would head to the
100-member House for consideration next. Altering the state constitution
requires votes in two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly
and the support of voters.