Marriage Equality Supporters Have 614 Problems, But Clear Constitutional Language Ain’t One

Lesley Weidenbener, writing for the Evansville Courier Press, has an article entitled Study: Same-sex marriage amendment would impact 600 Indiana laws. This is according to a report released Monday by Indiana Equality and students from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. (I briefly looked for the report on line without success.) The amendment would change Indiana’s constitution to prohibit laws recognizing rights for unmarried individuals, including same sex partners, that are similar to rights granted through marriage.

Among the laws documented by the report:

• For purposes of Medicaid, “immediate family” includes spouse and dependent children under 21 years of age.

• The spouse of a mentally ill individual may initiate a proceeding to commit that individual to an appropriate institution.

• A spouse may request the health records of a deceased spouse.

• A spouse is not legally responsible for the contracts his or her spouse signs or the civil harms she causes.

This is probably a good strategy by proponents of marriage equality. I have found that people who have ideologies very different from mine, nevertheless, tend to have common ground with me when we focus on particulars. For example, I think you’ll find that folks who generally feel that “gay marriage is bad” will nevertheless not have a problem with unmarried gay partners (or unmarried heterosexual partners for that matter) having access to one another’s health records. If it’s just the health records, you can amend just that law, I suppose. But, if the bundle of rights available to married people reach a critical mass of provisions that most folks agree should be available to married and unmarried partners alike, I think you’ll see support for the Constitutional amendment slide away due to a lack of appetite for that ambiguous second sentence: “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”


  1. Don Sherfick says

    That esoteric second sentence of the amendment troubled Lieutenant Governor-Elect Sue Ellspermann enough when she was a State Representative to vote in favor of ripping it out. It would be interesting to see if the media were able to ask her what her concerns were.

  2. Don Sherfick says

    Proponents of the amendment say “no problemo” with the same of similar language in other states. They certainly can’t mean in Wisconsin, where they said the very same taxt meant that domestic partnerhsip laws wouldn’t be affected, then turned right around and attacked one. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is currently considering the “no problem”. It may be that there haven’t been suits in some other states, but people on both sides of the issue sue and don’t sue for many reasons, some of them financial. In addition, if you’ve created a big “legislative guessing game” as to what “substantially similar” means, lawmakers tend not to want to venture into that area, and hence there aren’t any laws to challange. There are no boxing matches in a mortuary.


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