Same-sex marriage debate heats up as both sides anticipate House vote

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Jan. 20, 2014) — As the House prepares for session Tuesday, activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are closely watching the activity at the Statehouse. The proposed constitutional ban, known as HJR3, is still stalled in the House committee where members have yet to take a vote.

The House Judiciary committee held a three-hour hearing on the issue last week, but did not vote on the resolution. Committee Chair Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, said he wanted to give committee members more time to consider all the testimony, but the delay now has some political observers wondering if HJR3 has enough votes to pass out of committee.

Six Republicans on the committee have indicated they would vote for the measure, while four Democrats on the committee said they would vote against it. That leaves three remaining Republicans, who would all have to vote against HJR3 for it to fail in committee and kill the measure altogether. Holding those three key swing votes are Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mt.Vernon and Rep. Daniel Leonard, R-Huntington.

Bosma’s statements and actions are being closely watched by Freedom Indiana, the organization campaigning against HJR3. Organizers worry Bosma could replace some committee members to ensure the measure advances. 

Freedom Indiana officials posted a message on the group’s website, calling for volunteers to voice their concerns at a community meeting Monday night. More than 100 people gathered to write letters to state leaders and Bosma, urging them to let the legislative process play out.

“Playing musical chairs with committee members is unprecedented and kind of what I’m calling the nuclear option,” said Megan Robertson, Freedom Indiana campaign manager. “We learned when we were young — just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.”

Carol Trexler, a HJR3 opponent and four-year lung cancer survivor, spoke at the event.

“I don’t want to go through extra hoops, loops. I don’t want to be educating anybody [about my relationship] every time I go to the doctors,” said Trexler.

Through Carol’s battle, the couple of 14 years says they’ve come across even more hurdles. Her partner, Donna Hirt, said they need to carry documents proving their relationship to hospitals. Donna has also been denied the right to stay after-hours at the hospital as a spouse.

“What happens is you have to prove yourself at every stop,” said Hirt. “It’s just discriminatory. Why are we less than?”

The resolution would have to pass the House committee to move ahead in the General Assembly, and eventually get to the statewide ballot. Supporters of HJ3 are confident Bosma will let Hoosier voters decide.

“The speaker has a wide authority to do what he needs to do in the legislature,” said Ryan McCann of Indiana Family Institute via phone. “Bosma and members of the legislature have made it clear that this issue shouldn’t be decided by just one or two people, the legislature, business community or universities.”

Last week House Speaker Brian Bosma said a committee vote would likely not come until Wednesday.

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