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Indiana State Senate to take action on marriage amendment

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A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana has been re-introduced in the state senate and will be heard in committee next week. Similar legislation has already been introduced into the Indiana House of Representatives.

Indiana.gifIndiana legislators have introduced marriage amendments every year since 2004. The process of amending the state's constitution requires that legislation pass two separately elected legislative sessions and then a referendum. The amendment passed once in 2005, but failed in the next elected session.

The Indiana state senate is controlled by Republicans and the resolution stands a good chance of passing. The Senate has passed a marriage amendment every year since 2004. The Indiana House, however, is another story. House Democrats have killed the resolution every year since gaining control in the 2006 elections.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out, but here's my quick projection: The amendment won't pass this year, but the religious right is going to go all out in a desperate attempt to keep control of Indiana's conservative Republicans.

Indiana does not have a statewide law forbidding discrimination against LGBT people. It passed a Defense of Marriage Act in 1997 that was challenged in court but upheld.

Partisan Politics

Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR-13) was introduced by Republican Senator Carlin Yoder, a Christian school administrator from Elkhart. Elkhart County has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation; President Obama has visited a couple of times to give economic speeches. Goshen, a town in Elkhart County, recently voted down an inclusive human rights ordinance after an original co-sponsor of the ordinance voted against it.

These resolutions always pass the Senate and there's no end of a stream of willing Republicans to carry the water for religious fundie organizations on this one. House Joint Resolutions 5 and 7 were introduced by Republican legislators Bill Davis and Eric Turner.

With Democrats in control of the House, the LGBT community should be able to breathe a little easier. HJR-5 has been assigned to the House Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee, the same place similar legislation died last year.

The teabagger uprising, however, has helped to bring out the conservative Republican's inner-religious hypocrites. While their economic frustrations are palpable in a state where the economy has gone from bad to worse, anything smelling of liberal has become fair game. The religious right is already pushing their own brand of venom including a shot on location video produced by Focus on the Family attacking Democratic House Speaker Pat Bauer.

The Real Unemployment Rate

Let's be clear, Republicans in Indiana have crippled the state's economy by selling off parts of the state's infrastructure and muddling about in the state's property tax rates. They don't have a plan for fixing the state's financial meltdown that they can sell to voters; they're going to have to rely on wedge issues if they want to survive this fall's elections.

Democrats, on the other hand, have everything to lose by allowing the Republicans to force a vote on this issue. If the resolution passes this year and elections are held this fall electing a new crop of legislators who pass it again next year, that would put the referendum before the people on the 2012 ballot - a presidential and gubernatorial election year.

With popular Republican Governor Mitch Daniels off the ballot that year due to term limits, the last thing Democrats want is conservative voters turning out in droves to vote against marriage equality. Democrats hope to regain the Governor's seat and keep the eye of the Obama campaign - who spent an unprecedented amount of money in Indiana during the primary and general elections of 2008.

Indiana Equality Action President Randy Studt said in a press release, "The Marriage Discrimination Amendment violates every Hoosier's basic right to fairness and equality. It's just an attempt to distract Hoosiers from the greater issues facing Indiana, threatening our state's current and future economic development."

Agreed. And the one issue Democratic legislators will never forget? Their own employment rate.

(Crossposted from my home blog, Bilerico Project. Come visit me there to see why both the Washington Post and the Advocate named us one of the top 10 LGBT political blogs in the nation.)