Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee approves of super-DOMA amendment

01/21/10 update: The Facts About SJR-13, the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, 01/21/10 Indiana Equality; Senate panel approves gay marriage measure, 01/21/10; and Constitutional ban on gay marriage may not go far [in Indiana], 01/21/10 AP

Indiana has a statutory ban on same-sex marriage that a state appellate court upheld just four years ago. [Morrison v. Sadler, 821 N.E.2d 15 (Ind. App. 2005)] Nevertheless, marriage equality opponents in Indiana believe that the law might be challenged again in state court. To prevent a future challenge, they have engaged Republican legislators to sponsor a "super-DOMA" amendment, SJR 13.

The Indiana Constitution (Art. 16) sets a high bar for adoption of constitutional amendments. The legislature must approve a proposed amendment by a majority in each house, and it must do so in two successive sessions. Only then can voters decide the outcome in a general election.

Last year the House failed to pass a super-DOMA amendment the second time around. Although the state Senate Judiciary Committee approved SJR 13 today, odds of success seem doubtful. The vote was close - 6 to 4 - and participants, including African Americans, objected that the proposed amendment would constitutionalize discrimination. According to, "[t]here's been no indication" that companion resolutions in the state House (H.J.R. 5 and H.J.R. 7) will receive a hearing.

Attorney Jim Bopp, Jr., helped draft SJR 13. Last year he filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Protect Marriage to challenge donor disclosures under California campaign finance law. (See this NY Times article.) He also represents a witness for Prop. 8 proponents in the Perry trial. As reports,
He notes several state Supreme Courts, most recently Iowa, have overridden laws like Indiana's, and contends opposition to a constitutional amendment amounts to an invitation to Indiana gay-rights group to go to court until they obtain a similar result.
For more on Bopp's testimony, see this post by another hearing participant, Michael Walleck, who testified on behalf of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. Walleck is a board member of Indiana Equality.

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