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HJR-3 Update

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Today, the Indiana Senate had its final vote on House Joint Resolution 3, the same-sex marriage ban. The Senate was voting on a version of the bill as amended by the lower house. A vote in favor of HJR-3 would effectively suspend the attempt to put a ban on same-sex marriage before voters on this fall’s ballot. A vote against the bill would defeat it. Either way the issue will be suspended until another legislator might propose something similar. Most senators spoke against the same sex marriage ban as a civil rights issue. One of these was local Democratic Senator Mark Stoops.

“When I first started hearing about this discussion at the state house, obviously I wasn’t a legislator at the time,” said Stoops. “But my first thought wasn’t just that ‘oh, this is going to be embarrassing for the state, it puts us in the spotlight’. It’s not the fact that we’re going to lose out on economic development because people aren’t going to want to come here. It seemed to me that the main issue with a resolution like this is basic civil rights.”

Senator Stoops went on to explain how placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution would entrench discrimination in what should be a rights document:

“I mean, we all have friends, co-workers, and family that we know are gay. Are we as legislators, and are you as senators, going to look at those friends and those co-workers and those family members and say, ‘With this vote, I am saying I’m a better person than you, I am more moral than you, and I’m more deserving of basic civil rights’? Because if you support this amendment, that’s exactly what you’re going to be saying.”

Another legislator, Democratic Senator Greg Taylor from District 33 in Central Indiana, drew parallels with prohibitions on interracial marriage.

“Nineteen sixty-seven in Indiana,” began Taylor,  “I met a couple, a friend of mine’s mom and dad, the first interracial couple to be married in the state of Indiana. You want to know why? Because it was illegal. That was supposed to protect the institution of marriage.”

He then talked about how such prohibitions would have affected him personally:

“Nineteen ninety-nine, I had the opportunity on May 15, 1999 – I hope my wife remembers I said that because I remember our anniversary date – to marry my wife. She happens to be caucasian. Folks, times change. Times will always change. I love my wife to death. I don’t care what culture she has, I don’t care what race she has. Can you believe that there was a time in this state when me and my wife couldn’t be married? Now we sit here with this issue.”

Shortly after his speech to the Senate, the majority voted for the amended version of HJR-3. Despite voting for legislation to discriminate against same-sex couples, this vote makes makes it impossible to place a referendum on the 2014 ballot for voters to constitutionally entrench the same-sex ban. However, it does not preclude attempts by state legislators to attempt to enact such a ban in the future. While Indiana has been debated such discriminatory legislation, other states and the federal government have been moving to permit same sex marriage and extend the benefits of marriage to these couples. While the courts have taken the lead in striking down discriminatory laws and regulations at both levels of government, legislators have stopped trying to resist the tide in what has become the civil rights issue the age. The pressure of public opinion and organization interest in favor of expanding marriage rights is forcing governments here and abroad to either resist calls to legalize sexual discrimination or revisit such laws already passed.

 

Daily Local News – January 28, 2014

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FEATURE
House Joint Resolution Three, Indiana’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, had its second reading on the House floor yesterday afternoon. An amendment striking the second sentence of the two-sentence bill was proposed by Representative Truitt of House District 26. The second sentence read, “Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.” Now we bring you the entire discussion from the House floor, for today’s WFHB feature report.

INS AND OUTS OF MONEY
Dark winter days getting you down? Find out some creative ways to beat the blues without breaking the bank, for WFHB’s weekly financial segment The Ins and Outs of Money.

CREDITS
Anchors: Nick Tumino, Casey Kuhn
Our feature was produced by Alycin Bektesh.
The Ins and Outs of Money is produced by Dan Withered, in partnership with the Monroe County Public Library and The United Way of Monroe County.
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes.
Editor and engineer is Drew Daudelin,
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Amended HJR-3 passes

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BREAKING: An amendment striking the second sentence of HJR3 is approved, and moves on to the Senate. It is dissimilar enough from HJR6 that a 2014 referendum is most likely off the table.

EARLIER:

Citizens are crowding the Indiana Statehouse today in anticipation of a second reading of House Joint Resolution Three, and a vote by the Indiana House of Representatives on the gay marriage ban. The House went into recess for the afternoon without the amendment reaching the floor, but a late session is expected this evening. If the resolution is passed as it currently stands, it will move forward in the second round of voting, required for any amendment to the Indiana Constitution. Right now the text of the resolution reads: “Marriage. Provides that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.” However, several amendments have been filed that would alter the text of the resolution, particularly the second half which addresses civil unions. If an amendment is adopted that changes this text, that will reset the two-cycle requirement for amending the state constitution. In a press conference on Friday, House Minority leader Scott Pelath says that in the years since the passing of what was then titled HJR-6, sentiment in the state has shifted.

“I remember what it was like in my beautiful community of Michigan City just a few years ago, and I surveyed my constituents, and you know what, they were pretty evenly divided about whether we should be doing this constitutional amendment or not,” said Pelath. “I surveyed them again this year, and while not scientific, it is instructive of how your likely voters are thinking about an issue. And this year, it was more than two to one: Let’s focus on other things.”

Pelath gave an example of a bill proposed in support of rape victims, which has been ignored this session while the legislature has focused on ratifying the state constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions. Other examples of bills that have been set aside during the HJR-3 debate are a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage from seven twenty-five to eight twenty-five per hour, and a bill which would prevent people and companies seeking taxpayer-funded incentives from making political contributions to candidates for statewide office or the Legislature.

“She had a simple bill that said, why don’t we delve into this problem that everyone agrees is a calamity for Indiana women, let’s figure out the root causes and identify some solutions,” said Pelath, “and she was told, ‘Look, we don’t have enough time to deal with this this year,’ by one of the committee chairs. This is an example of how we’re just being sapped of our ability to do good things for Indiana because of the specter that’s hovering over everyone.”

The staff of the Indianapolis star polled all one hundred members of the Indiana House, asking them how they intended to vote on HJR-3. Local representatives Bob Heaton and Eric Koch replied that they would vote in favor of the bill, Matt Pierce replied that he would vote against the bill, and Matt Ubelhor and Peggy Mayfield did not respond to the poll. As of this broadcast HJR-3 has not been called to the floor, and Speaker of the House Brian Bosma has ordered pizza to the House Chamber, expecting the session to go well past dinner this evening.

HJR-3 Advances Through The Indiana House

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This morning the Indiana House of Representatives adopted the committee report from yesterday’s Elections and Apportionment Committee meeting, during which House Joint Resolution 3 passed, 9 to 3.

The proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution, which explicitly states that same sex couples do not have the right to get married, may now continue through the legislative process, and is expected to have a second reading before the House on Monday.

District 61 Representative Matt Pierce spoke on the floor today during the adoption, warning that the unprecedented process in which the bill came to the house floor would set a precedent for future speakers of the house to rearrange the legislative process to get the outcome they are looking for, just as House Speaker Brian Bosma reassigned HJR-3 once it fell short in the Judiciary committee.

“I made the argument that what the speaker had done was unprecedented,” Pierce said, “It was like a golfer taking a mulligan when they get their resolution stuck in the sand trap. It created a system where you can just have a do-over until you get the result you want. What the speaker did that was so unique is that he actually had a bill in a judiciary committee, the public testimony was taken, the committee had been educated on the issue, they were at the point where a vote could be taken and they obviously delayed it because they knew it wasn’t going to come out the way they wanted it to. For the speaker to then take the bill away from the judiciary committee and put it into elections, where clearly he had counted his votes to know he’d get a good reaction, is what is unprecedented. I ask for the members in the house to reject the committee report to essentially say we don’t want to set the precedent of having these mulligans going on every time we have a controversial bill. It did not work.”

House Representative and Elections and Apportionment committee member Woody Burton, District 58 is quoted in the Indianapolis Star acknowledging that there is a divide between the younger and older Republican members of the house and their views towards marriage equality, but a sister bill introduced this month may be a way of modifying the original bill to retain the vote of the more tolerant Republicans.

House Bill 1153 explains away a sentence regarding civil unions in the original resolution without actually making changes that would force the process back to square one, because the amendment can only be sent to a referendum if it is passed twice with the exact same language by two different assemblies.

Pierce says the companion bill brought additional challenges, rather than solutions.

“That bill actually catalogued all the potential unintentional consequences of that amendment,” Pierce said, “I think they thought that by listing them, that would be kind of like a lifeboat that a lot of republicans could put themselves in and feel safe enough to go ahead and vote for the amendment as is. What I think what happened instead is that after they heard from some legal experts explaining how it was unprecedented, that backfired and caused some members of the judiciary committee to decide they wouldn’t vote for it.”

Similar bills in nearby states have been ruled unconstitutional–most recently a federal judge in Ohio ruled their gay marriage ban as such.

Pierce says that when issues of discrimination and legality come up, proponents of HJR-3 claim that the decision is not theirs to make.

“Oftentimes issues come up asking is this bill constitutional?” Pierce said, “The truth of the matter is that since it’s a joint resolution amending the constitution, it automatically becomes constitutional once it becomes part of the constitution. The real issue is whether or not it’s unconstitutional under the federal constitution. The attitude of most members when that comes up is that they can come up with their own ideas of what’s constitutional or not, and that I will decide what’s the best policy and it’s the job of the court to decide whether the ruling is unconstitutional.”

When HJR-3 is brought to the House Floor, most likely on Monday, any Representative can offer amendments to the bill.  Amendments must have a majority of favorable votes to become adopted but with Republicans holding a super majority it is unlikely that any amendment offered by a democratic representative would pass.

Additionally, if HJR-3 is made too dissimilar to 2011’s HJR-6, it would not qualify for referendum this year. Pierce says the democrats are working on their strategy over the weekend, and have until two hours prior to the House Chamber meeting to offer amendments to be read on the house floor on Monday.

Daily Local News – January 17, 2014

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The Bloomington City Council debated how to balance automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic at a meeting on Wednesday; The Monroe County Council moved toward increasing the salary of Chief Public Defender Michael Hunt by about fourteen thousand dollars last week; Indiana has received a D+ grade from the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP, a national medical society that creates annual report cards for each state grading conditions under which emergency care is delivered.

FEATURE
Indiana University Vice President and General Counsel Jackie Simmons spoke before the Indiana House of Representative’s Judiciary committee on Monday, during consideration of House Joint Resolution 3, the proposed constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage.

VOLUNTEER CONNECTION
Indiana University Vice President Jackie Simmons on HJR-3
A weekly snapshot of how people of all ages can match their time and talents to local needs. Each week Volunteer Connection brings you the “featured five” – five ways to get involved NOW! Volunteer Connection is a co-production of WFHB and the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network, working together to build an empowered, vibrant, and engaged community!

CREDITS
Anchors: Helen Harrell, Bill Daugherty
Today’s headlines were written by Drew Daudelin,
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, a partnership with Community Access Television Services.
Our feature was produced by Alycin Bektesh
Volunteer Connection is produced by Wanda Krieger, in partnership with the city of Bloomington Volunteer Network
Our engineer is Nick Tumino
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

Daily Local News – January 13, 2014

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Re-opening after the holidays has not gone smoothly for Fairview Elementary, as conflict erupted between parents and school administrators; After months of debate and several revisions, the Ellettsville Town Council passed new regulations on second-hand shops December 23rd; The Indiana House Judiciary Committee decided this morning to delay a vote on HJR-3, the bill that would change the Indiana Constitution to state that only heterosexual couples have marriage rights in Indiana; The Ocwen Financial Corporation of Georgia and its subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing, have agreed to a two-point-one billion dollar joint state-federal settlement with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, forty-eight additional attorneys general, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

FEATURE
Factory Farms Offered More Protection in Proposed Amendment
Until late last week, the Hoosier Environmental Council was gearing up for a fight against a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution. The amendment included language the council said protected factory farms and other controversial farming practices. But some key language was removed from the amendment before it was filed last week. Assistant News Director Joe Crawford spoke with Kim Ferraro from the council for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

ACTIVATE!
Leslie Abshier and veteran volunteer, Vonnie, talk about the work of LifeDesigns, Inc and the upcoming Art of Chocolate fundraiser, part of Bloomington’s 10th annual Week of Chocolate.

CREDITS
Anchors: Maria McKinley, Doug Storm
Today’s headlines were written by David Murphy, Chris Martin, and Drew Daudelin,
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, a partnership with Community Access Television Services.
Our feature was produced by Joe Crawford.
Activate! is produced by Jennifer Whitaker,
Our engineer today is Chris Martin,
Editor is Drew Daudelin, Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

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