Democratic members in explaining their vote reminded the committee Indiana law already prohibits same-sex marriages--a law which has been upheld by our Court of Appeals. Because there is no agreement among constitutional scholars on the meaning of the second paragraph of the amendment prohibiting the constitution or any state law from being construed to confer the legal incidents of marriage upon any unmarried couple, there is just too much risk of causing unintended consequences the Democratic members contended. Members were particularly concerned about what all the term "legal incidents of marriage" entailed and worried about the negative impact it could have on our domestic violence laws as has happened in the state of Ohio.
This was indeed a very brave and principled vote for Democratic members of the committee, and one that is not without political risk. Rep. Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) and the four Democratic members who joined him in defeating SJR-7 demonstrated by their actions today true profiles in courage. Hats off to these brave public servants.
Here's how they voted:
Rep. Terri Austin (D)-No
Rep. Scott Pelath (D)-No
Rep. Russ Stilwell (D)-No
Rep. Earl Harris (D)-No
Rep. Bob Kuzman (D)-No
Rep. Randy Borror (R)-Yes
Rep. Ralph Foley (R)-Yes
Rep. Eric Turner (R)-Yes
Rep. Matt Whetstone (R)-Yes
Rep. Dennis Oxley (D)-Yes
Thank you so much Rep. Pelath, Rep. Terri Austin, Rep. Russ Stilwell, Rep. Earl Harris and Rep. Bob Kuzman for the courage to rise above the politics and homophobia driving this amendment.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker applauded the commitee for its action today. In a press release, the Democratic chairman says:
The amendment raised myriad unanswerable legal questions and was publicly opposed by several major Indiana companies for its potentially chilling effect on the recruitment of top talent.
“House Democrats took a stand today against ill-crafted legislation that would have done more harm than good,” Parker said. “This wasn’t a vote against traditional marriage; it was a vote for protecting vulnerable Hoosiers and promoting job growth.”
Parker noted that among the many concerns raised with respect to the amendment, several related to its potential effect on victims of domestic violence seeking protection from their abusers.
Parker also pointed to public opposition from major companies such as Eli Lilly, Cummins, Wellpoint, DowAgro Sciences and Emmis Communications. “At a time when Indiana is bleeding thousands of jobs each month, the last thing we need to do is restrict our major employers and send the wrong message to companies and workers that might be looking to move here,” Parker said.
Parker called on Gov. Mitch Daniels, who formerly worked for Eli Lilly, to show some kind of leadership on the amendment, especially in light of his much-touted commitment to economic development. “The Governor has had multiple chances to say something about this amendment, but he’s nowhere to be found,” Parker said, noting that Daniels has not held a media availability for five weeks. “For a man who likes to say he’s bold on big issues, he’s been hiding under his desk on this one.”
As I've said before, don't expect any help from Gov. Daniels on SJR-7. He's long since thrown in with the religious right crowd in an effort to head off any primary challenge from the right in next year's gubernatorial election. See the AP story on today's vote here.