The New Jersey decision 'raises the gravity of the pledge we make today," said House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "If Indiana is going to make a decision to change the definition of marriage in the future, that decision should not be left to an appointed judge. It should be left to elected legislators and the citizens of this state."
Schneider notes my reaction that the New Jersey court decision is the Democrats' worst nightmare because it is likely to energize "values voters", who have to date been demoralized, to get out and vote. Regardless of who controls the House next year, an amendment will be voted on by the House. Schneider writes, "House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said that if Democrats win the majority, 'there will be a vote on this matter, even though I believe a constitutional amendment is redundant.'" She adds, "Republican 'efforts to make this a divisive campaign issue will not succeed,' Bauer said, accusing the GOP of a frantic attempt to divert voter attention from other issues, including property taxes and the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road."
Schneider notes both my and Orentlicher's observation that the amendment, as proposed, will affect more than just same-sex couples:
The amendment has two parts. One defines marriage as between a man and woman. The second says that neither the constitution nor any state law can be construed as giving "the legal incidents of marriage" to unmarried couples or groups.
Bosma said that will not affect the inheritance and property rights, medical decision-making and visitation, insurance and other benefits that nonmarried couples often share. Those are protected by other laws, he said.
But Welsh and others, including state Rep. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, were skeptical. Orentlicher, a physician and attorney who teaches at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, was one of the handful of legislators, all Democrats, who voted against the amendment in 2005.
He noted that in Michigan, which adopted a similar constitutional amendment, the attorney general has ruled that government bodies, including cities and universities, cannot offer domestic-partner benefits. And in Ohio, he said, some lower courts have ruled that the amendment means the state's domestic-violence laws do not apply to unmarried couples.
Many believe that if the Democrats recapture the House, the second paragraph of the amendment will be taken out of SJR-7. That, of course, will restart the time clock on the amendment. It will then have to be approved by two successive sessions of the General Assembly, meaning the first date it could appear on the ballot is 2010. If no changes are made to the amendment, it will appear on the ballot in 2008.
It is disappointing that Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) chose to wade into this issue on the side of its proponents. "I believe in the traditional definition of marriage," he said Thursday. "That's not an excuse for discrimination or other violations of people's civil rights, but marriage has a very special, very sacred, very specific meaning, and I think it ought to be affirmed."