Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bauer Hints He'll Amend SJR-7

The AP's Mike Smith reports House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) is inclined to amend the second paragraph of SJR-7 to remove the language which goes beyond a mere ban on same-sex marriages. Smith reports:

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage will get a key hearing before an Indiana House committee next week. But a provision that critics say could have unintended consequences could be removed, a top lawmaker suggested today.

Proponents of the amendment have said that if any of the language changes, it would restart the lengthy process of amending the constitution. But House Speaker Patrick Bauer, who has consulted attorneys on the matter, said the section that specifically bans same-sex marriage could still advance even if another provision is removed.

“I think that might be the case, but we’ll see,” said Bauer, D-South Bend.

The proposed amendment has two sections. The first states that marriage in Indiana is solely the union of one man and one woman. The second says the state constitution or state law cannot be construed to provide the benefits of marriage to unmarried couples or groups.

Some opponents of the amendment say the second provision is vague and could be used to nullify domestic violence laws that apply to married and unmarried couples. They also fear it could eliminate domestic partner benefits offered by employers and contracts that unmarried senior couples sometimes have to retain inheritances and share legal, financial and health care decisions.

Terre Haute attorney James Bopp Jr. and other supporters of the amendment say the second provision means courts cannot force the government to provide same-sex benefits, but it does not prohibit the government, public employers or anyone else from voluntarily offering such benefits.

Constitutional bans against same-sex marriage have led to lawsuits in some states, and more than 20 have yet to determine how they apply to benefits . . .

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has said that changing the wording would restart the process and has repeatedly voiced concern that Democrats would alter the proposal’s language.

Bauer said that would occur only through the committee process and if those concerned about the second provision showed up for the hearing and presented a competent case.

“I’ve said before, the process will run its course,” he said.

Suffice it to say Rep. Bosma's only concern is his favorite wedge issue won't be on the ballot in 2008 so he can stoke it for all the gain he can get from gay bashing to regain control of the Indiana House.

As for Jim Bopp's contentions about SJR-7, let's put his feet to the fire this time. Let's take another look at his take on the second paragraph. Smith writes, "Terre Haute attorney James Bopp Jr. and other supporters of the amendment say the second provision means courts cannot force the government to provide same-sex benefits, but it does not prohibit the government, public employers or anyone else from voluntarily offering such benefits." The key words to focus on here is that "it does not prohibit the government, public employers or anyone else from voluntarily offering such benefit. What Bopp doesn't include in that statement is a legislative enactment requiring domestic partner benefits, civil unions, hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, etc. for unmarried couples, straight or gay.

Bopp understands fully that the language of SJR-7 would slam the door on any future legislative enactments which would benefit unmarried couples. That's the whole purpose behind the second paragraph. If a legislature wanted to provide for any of these benefits in the future, such a law could never be enforced because a court is prohibited from interpretating a statute as conferring a legal incident of marriage on any unmarried person or group. What the second paragraph really invites are legislative enactments to ban such benefits--exactly what was attempted in Kentucky this year based upon a similar constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. Don't be tricked by Bopp's slippery assurances. His agenda is to replace our civil laws with laws based upon his interpretation of fundamentalist Christian law. That is exactly what our founders sought to protect us from when they insisted upon a separation of church and state in the Bill of Rights. That is also why Indiana went even further by including these provisions in our own Indiana Bill of Rights:

All people shall be secured in the natural right to worship ALMIGHTY GOD, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.

No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.

No religious test shall be required, as a qualification for any office of trust or profit.

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

11 comments:

Wilson46201 said...

A dumb question: if SJR-7 is amended one jot or tiddle, does that restart the 4 year clock?

Advance Indiana said...

Yes.

Anonymous said...

not necessarily. That's the conventional wisdom, but the Constitution says nothing about that. Litigation will ensue.

Advance Indiana said...

The Constitution provides the following for amendments:

Section 1. (a) An amendment to this Constitution may be proposed in either branch of the General Assembly. If the amendment is agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses, the proposed amendment shall, with the yeas and nays thereon, be entered on their journals, and referred to the General Assembly to be chosen at the next general election.
(b) If, in the General Assembly so next chosen, the proposed amendment is agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each House, then the General Assembly shall submit the amendment to the electors of the State at the next general election.
(c) If a majority of the electors voting on the amendment ratify the amendment, the amendment becomes a part of this Constitution.

It has always been interpreted in the past that an amendment be approved by successive general assemblies in identical form.

Advance Indiana said...

I should add, Wilson, SJR-7 will be substantively amended if it is amended at all. The House Dems will not make a mere technical change such as moving a comma as some have foolishly suggested.

Anonymous said...

"It has always been interpreted in the past that an amendment be approved by successive general assemblies in identical form."

I've heard the same: but like I said, and you quoted, the Constitution is silent on the issue of modifications. And I haven't found a case yet that treats the issue. Bauer seems to be indicating in the article that he's been told the opposite is the case.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Bauer can be trusted any more, and we've let him off the hook by even having this damned thing voted on in the first place. Without a fight, that is.

He foolishly let 5-7 conservative Dem legislators convice him that they lost the majority in 2004 because of this issue.

Which proves how far out of touch legislators really are.

Anywhooo...

The 2008 session is still technically in this biennium. I'm betting that even if we are midly successful this session, and that's a huge "if", this will be back in full force next year. Of course, it'll be a short session, and they have the cover of "emergency issues only." Which is conveniently used sometimes.

Much, much work is yet to be done. But Bauer seems to be suggesting that smart arguments against this amendment will be helpful during committee hearings.

Hear that? SMART arugments. That means solid evidence and examples of feared repercussions.

NOT emotional appeals that fall on flat ears.

NOT some of the hyperbole exhibited at the Statehouse rally.

The Wisconsin bioprofessor leaving the state, that's solid.

Candace Gingrich, uh, that's not solid.

God love her.

Advance Indiana said...

Let's be clear on this. From a purely political standpoint, Bauer is being told by partisan Democrats to keep SJR-7 off the ballot in 2008. Presidential election years aren't typically good for Democrats in Indiana, and they don't want some wingnut issue on the ballot driving turnout on the extreme right. Watch for who comes out against SJR-7 next week as it is currently written. Bauer will be provided the cover for deep-sixing this horribly-written amendment for the 2008 ballot.

Anonymous said...

For once, I hope Bauer does something. When are the leaders of the republican party going to realize that the future of the party thinks this is the most worthless, pea-brained issue to even be discussing. They need to ask themselves what type of individual does their stance and effort on this issue attract to the party. Idiots.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind though, that the Dems also want this off the ballot in 2010, which is the year for redistricting. So, some may be wagering that they'd be better weathering the backlash in 2008 to be able to come back to majority in 2010.

There are many more twists to this story before it ends.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone been following SB 289:

Explanation of proposed constitutional amendments. Requires the legislative council to prepare a concise and neutral summary of any proposed state constitutional amendment. Requires the legislative council to distribute a copy of the summary to various entities and post the summary on the general assembly's Internet web site not later than 60 days before the election at which the proposed amendment is submitted to the voters. Requires a copy of the summary to be posted at each polling place. Provides that the legislative council has absolute discretion to determine the contents of the summary, and prohibits the bringing of an action based on the exercise of this discretion.

I especially like the last line ...and prohibits the bringing of an action based on the exercise of this discretion.

Duh!

Does anybody know the status of this bill?