Legislators’ marriage opinions vary

Herald Staff Writer

State legislators who represent Dubois County vary in their perspectives about House Joint Resolution 6.

Should the measure, which proposes putting the same-gender marriage ban into the Indiana Constitution, come up for a second vote in the upcoming session, Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, will approve it a second time. Sen. Lindel Hume, D-Princeton, will again vote no. And Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, is not sure if he will give it another yes vote like he did 2011.

HJR6 proposes adding into the state constitution: “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana” and “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

All the legislators explained that the ban on same-gender marriage is already state law.

“(The amendment) does not create a new exemption,” Messmer said. “(The ban) is already state statute.”

“Since the state law is on the books, this is basically a nonissue,” Hume said. “It is not needed.”

To add language to the constitution, according to Indiana law, both chambers of two consecutive General Assembly bodies must approve the resolution for the amendment twice and it must be put on the ballot for voters to consider as a referendum. If one General Assembly passes it, the second passage must be done by the same body or the next one that is voted into office.

Legislators approved the resolution in 2011. The 2014 legislative session, which starts Jan. 6, is the last opportunity for legislators to give HJR6 its second vote of approval.

Messmer voted in favor of the resolution in 2011 and will vote yes again should the measure come up for the second vote. He believes Hoosiers should have a chance to vote on the matter in the 2014 general election.

“The people should have the opportunity to say if they want this or not,” he said. “To kill HJR6 is saying that the people shouldn’t have a say.”

Messmer said the amendment would protect the state rule from being challenged in court. “It leaves the decision to approve or disapprove up to the voters,” he said. “It takes it out of the hands of the court system. That’s all this does.”

Both Hume and Young said that other legislators and the public are expressing more concerns about the resolution now than in 2011.

“There are a number of businesses, business organizations and universities that are looking at what this constitutional amendment would do to the economy in the state,” said Hume, who voted against the resolution in 2011. “I think this has taken on a different look this time than last time. It has taken on an economic view instead of being a social, moral issue.”

Young voted for the resolution in 2011, but he isn’t totally sure that he will vote yes if it comes up for the second vote.

“I have always taken the position that marriage is between a man and a woman, and it’s already state law,” he said. “With the number of other states that are granting same-sex marriages, I can see where this (matter is) getting into a different realm now, in how we will be competitive with other states.”

Young is especially concerned about Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, which must follow the federal government’s rules of respecting same-gender marriages and giving those couples the same benefits as those in traditional marriages. The amendment could affect the federal government’s review on whether or not the base should stay in Indiana or move elsewhere, he said.
“That base brings in millions and millions of dollars into southern Indiana,” he said.

Hume said that if the resolution would come to a vote, he would vote no for a second time. “The fact that we have the law on the books, to put a basically moral tenet into our constitution isn’t necessary.”

Rep. Lloyd Arnold, R-Leavenworth, did not return calls from The Herald seeking comment. Arnold joined the House in 2013; he was not a member when the first vote was taken.

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.

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