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March 16, 2011

Vote expected on same sex marriage ban

Clere among opposition

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — A constitutional ban on same sex marriage — an issue that brought hundreds to protest outside the Indiana State House earlier this week — could be one of the few pieces of legislation that makes it out of this session.

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a resolution on the matter in February. An Indiana Senate committee is scheduled to take up the matter today.

Numerous bills have been stalled as a protest walkout by Democratic legislators continues over labor and education issues. Because the marriage ban is a resolution — rather than a bill — a conference committee between  both chambers is not necessary, explained Emily Landis, press secretary for the House Republicans. That means it could be approved without House Democrats returning from their protest. It’s expected to pass as the Senate is heavily controlled by the GOP, which is largely responsible for its passage in the House.

The one and only House Republican voting against the bill was Ed Clere, R- New Albany.

“I voted against it because I have a lot of concern about it,” he said.

Clere, who admits he’s heard negative reaction from supporters of the measure, said he believes the resolution was well-intended but doesn’t think it addresses real problems.

“There’s no question that marriage is under attack,” he said. However, he believes divorce and media messages that undermine traditional values are the culprit.

He’s not the only Southern Indiana representative to go against his party these days. In the past few weeks, State Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, has made headlines for going against his party and sticking around Indianapolis during the walkout.

Of course, not all of those representing Southern Hoosiers share Clere’s view. Rhonda Rhoads, Corydon, voted in favor of the resolution.

“I would rather the legislators, people of Indiana make a decision rather than a judge,” she said.

She said she doesn’t have a problem with people being with whoever they wanted to be with and argued that same sex couples could utilize power of attorney to garner some of the same benefits that married couples receive.

According to the resolution only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid. It also provides that legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in the state.

The Associated Press reported that hundreds opposing the measure showed up for a protest outside the statehouse Monday.

“It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday or the day before, we can be quite forgiving,” said Aaron Schaler, with the Indiana Stonewall Democrats. “It does, however, matter what you do tomorrow, what you do the day after and, most importantly, what you do when you have a chance to vote against this bill. We will be watching.”

It’s being presented as an amendment to the state’s constitution, meaning it has to be approved by two separately elected general assemblies to get on the ballot for a public vote. Opponents could work to elect candidates on the 2012 ballot who would vote against the proposal. If that doesn’t work and the amendment passes both the House and Senate in 2013 or 2014, the proposal would be on the ballot in 2014, giving opponents another shot to defeat the measure.

Cory Cutsinger, of Indianapolis, said gay couples should be able to get married. She wiped away a tear as she listened to one rally speaker tell of her dream to one day return to the Statehouse steps with a wife and child.

“It’s harmful to discriminate,” Cutsinger said. “Writing it in the constitution makes it so much more permanent.”

Wade Holmes and Patrick Roth were married in 2004 in Canada, but their marriage isn’t recognized in Indiana. Their 12-year-old daughter, Rosy Gray, held a sign proclaiming her love for her two dads.

“I wanted to show the world that everyone should be equal,” she said.

Associated Press reporter Deanna Martin contributed to this report.

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