If ratified, according to opponents of the amendment, unmarried couples could lose every right or protection available to their families, touching nearly every facet of modern life, from health care to domestic partnership benefits to child and elder care. In stripping away these important rights, unmarried couples and their families would be vulnerable to future discrimination without legal recourse, severely limiting the opportunity for those of limited means to fight for their rights . . .
Serious repercussions from legislation similar to SJR 7 have already been seen in Michigan, Utah and Ohio where the passage of a constitutional amendment resulted in the legal system’s inability to protect victims of domestic violence. In Michigan, one prosecutor has refused to issue protective orders because, in his words, “domestic violence laws are for wife-beaters, not girlfriend-beaters.” This past month, a Michigan judge upheld a ruling that denies domestic violence laws from being applied in the cases where the victim and abuser are not married.
Because Utah’s amendment states that no domestic status or union other than the legal union of one man and one woman has legal sanction or validity, protective orders in the context of an unmarried couple cannot be enforced. And in Ohio, where domestic violence law applies only to a person “living as a spouse,” the new constitutional amendment prohibits Ohio from recognizing a spouse outside the context of a legal union between one man and one woman.
In an effort to negate these concerns in Indiana, the Senate Rules Committee has taken SB 65, previously a “vehicle bill,” and changed the bill to amend the definition of domestic battery to provide that the offense is committed if the prohibited behavior results in the bodily injury of a family or household member of the person engaging in the behavior.
The bill, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, who also authored SJR 7, is a clumsy attempt to negate the criticism of SJR 7’s probable effects on Indiana’s domestic violence laws. There is little belief that the amendment will be passed.
Domestic partnership health benefits are also at stake if SJR 7 passes. Kentucky has a similar constitutional amendment already on the books and this year that state’s Legislature is well on its way to approving a statute which prohibits state universities from offering domestic partner benefits. The legislation was launched after the University of Louisville became the first public university in that state to announce it planned to offer domestic partner benefits.
During the recent Senate debate on SJR 7 here in Indiana, Hershman insisted that the claims that the amendment would strike down domestic partner benefits, such as those offered by Purdue University in his own district, were untrue. Hershman told the Lafayette Journal & Courier, “I have consulted constitutional scholars and the attorney general. And these assertions are simply false.”
Even if Hershman does not intend for SJR 7 to restrict health care benefits, he has tried to cut off domestic partnership benefits in the past. In 2003, Hershman introduced legislation to cut off state funding to Purdue University and other state educational institutions that offered domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners.
For all those folks out there in the mainstream media, this is the story you should be writing if you were doing your job. McPhee earns a merit badge for holding the hypocritical Brandt Hershman's feet to the fire. She's the only reporter who's bothered to cover the fact that, according to his former wife, he demanded after 7 years of marriage without any children she get an abortion after she became pregnant, only to see him file for divorce one week after she complied with his wishes.