Gay marriage debate pits social conservatives against businesses

2011-03-16T12:50:00Z 2011-03-17T00:40:06Z Gay marriage debate pits social conservatives against businessesBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
March 16, 2011 12:50 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The tension between the social conservatives and the business interests that comprise the modern Republican Party was on display Wednesday as an Indiana Senate committee debated whether to add the state's existing ban on gay marriage to the Indiana Constitution.

The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed voting on House Joint Resolution 6 for one week to give Hoosiers more time to speak to the committee about the proposed amendment.

But for three hours Wednesday, senators were told the amendment vote would either lead to the destruction of marriage -- or lead businesses to depart for less discriminatory locales.

Jim Bopp, a Terre Haute attorney, said the state's current prohibition on gay marriage, enacted in 1986, is not enough protection from "activist judges" who someday may rule the law conflicts with equal rights protections in the state constitution.

"It's just foolish to ignore the danger when there are ready remedies available," Bopp said.

But Jill Cook, vice president of human resources for Cummins Inc., said her company, which employs 5,500 workers at its Columbus, Ind., headquarters, would think twice about expanding if the amendment is approved.

"This resolution sends a powerful message that Indiana is not a place that welcomes people of all backgrounds, and it jeopardizes our ability to attract employees," Cook said.

The proposed amendment would define marriage in the Constitution as being between one man and one woman. It also would prohibit recognizing any relationship "identical or substantially similar" to marriage, such as civil unions.

State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, said he doesn't see why the amendment is needed.

"What problem are we trying to correct by amending this into the state Constitution?" Randolph said.

If approved by the committee next week, the proposed amendment would be voted on by full Republican-controlled Senate. The Republican-controlled House approved the proposal, 70-26, on Feb. 15.

The amendment also would have to be approved by both chambers of the 2013-14 General Assembly before it can be sent to Hoosier voters to be ratified or rejected.

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