Lesley Stedman Weidenbener has an article entitled Marriage amendment shelved on the subject of the House Rules Committee’s defeat of SJR 7 which would amend the Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman and would also prohibit the extension of a legal incident of marriage to an unmarried couple.
I disagree with Ms. Weidenbener’s seemingly editorial comment that “The primary focus of the amendment is to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” An amendment does not really have a focus. It is says what it says, no more, no less. I don’t see how the first section of the amendment, defining marriage, is more or less important than the second section of the amendment restricting the extension of legal rights to unmarried couples. But, in any event, she is quite correct when she says that the second section has been the greater subject of controversy during the debate this session.
House Rules Chairman Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said that after hours of testimony on the proposal last month, he still doesn’t have a definition of the “legal incidents of marriage.”
“I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I’ve said that many times,” Pelath said. “I’m mostly concerned about putting things in the constitution I don’t feel we understand absolutely what they do.”
The second section said this:
This constitution or any other Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
Once again, broken down into its broadest application, it says, Indiana law may not be construed to require that the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples. Rep. Eric Turner, a supporter of this provision claims that this section does not limit the General Assembly. How can he make this claim? The General Assembly passes a law conferring legal incidents of marriage (whatever those may be) upon an unmarried couple. The law is unenforceable because a court is constitutionally prohibited from construing such a law the way the General Assembly wrote it. If he’s saying that permitting the General Assembly to pass only uneforceable laws does not constitute a limitation, then he’s an idiot. If he’s not saying that, then he needs to explain himself.
A handful of Indiana’s largest employers, including Eli Lilly, Cummins, and WellPoint deserve credit. They publicly told the General Assembly that this backward legislation (my words, not theirs) was bad for business.