Sunday, March 18, 2007

More On Amending SJR-7

The Louisville Courier-Journal's Lesley Stedman Weidenbener has more on the ramifications of amending SJR-7 this year. With increased focus on the second paragraph of SJR-7 and its possible unintended consequences, discussion is shifting to whether the amendment would appear on the 2008 ballot if the second paragraph is removed. Some argue that if the remaining first paragraph defining marriage as between one man and one woman is approved, it would represent two consecutive general assemblies at which that identical language had been approved. As a consequence, they argue the amendment would satisfy the Indiana constitution's requirement for placing an amendment on the ballot for ratification by the voters. Weidenbener writes:

But Bauer indicated last week that there might need to be changes. At issue is the second part of the proposed amendment.

The first section would put the same-sex marriage ban into the constitution. Although that's controversial among gay-rights groups, it's not terribly troublesome to many lawmakers.

But the second section states that no state law can be construed to provide the benefits of marriage to unmarried couples or groups. Critics say that means state universities might not be able to provide benefits to same-sex couples or the state's domestic-violence laws could no longer treat unmarried couples living together the same as married couples.

Those issues have come up in other states that have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, although the language used in those places is different from what is proposed in Indiana.

But Bauer seems concerned and he called on those who may have similar fears -- particularly universities -- to show up at Wednesday's hearing.

He didn't say the amendment would necessarily be changed but it certainly seems possible.

Proponents of the measure say any change means it can't go on the ballot in 2008. Two consecutively elected legislatures must approve the same amendment, they say.

But Bauer says he has talked with attorneys who have a different interpretation. They say that if the first part of the amendment stays the same -- the section banning same-sex marriages -- that part could go on the ballot. That's an issue that would almost certainly end up in court. But it would all be moot if the House decides to stick with the original language. We could find out on Wednesday.

If part of the objective is to ensure the measure is not on the ballot in 2008, it seems to me this problem could be avoided altogether by adding new language to the second paragraph which ensures it does not cause the unintended consequences the amendment's proponents assure us it will not cause. If that is done, the amendment will contain language which has not been approved by two consecutive general assemblies and, therefore, would require approval of the next General Assembly before it could be placed on the ballot for ratification. The net effect of the amendment would be the same, except in the latter case you are adding language to clarify its intent rather than removing the objectional language.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DAYUM.....why does it feel liuke Bauer is sticking a shiv in our backs, slowly but surely?