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Gay marriage ban may alter 614 laws: Study

– More than 600 Indiana laws relate to marriage in some way, and they could be affected by the passage of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, according to a new report released Monday.

For example, the same-sex partner of a deceased police officer or firefighter isn’t eligible for death benefits because he or she isn’t a spouse. And the same-sex partner of a person running for office could work as a precinct official at the polls despite a ban against spouses.

These situations already exist in Indiana but under the proposed amendment, lawmakers might never be able to alter so-called conflicts or benefits laws.

“What is clear from this compendium is the extent to which Indiana law uses civil marriage as a way to classify, grant rights to, and impose responsibilities upon couples and families in 614 ways. We hope that it serves as a resource for examining how legislative action around marriage can affect all Hoosier couples and families,” the report said.

The analysis also noted, “whether one supports or opposes such a proposal, knowing what is involved in something as enduring as an amendment to the Bill of Rights in Indiana’s highest legal document is critical to enlightened public discourse and decision.”

The report was released by Indiana Equality Action, which opposes passage of the amendment. About 25 law students did the research as part of the LGBT Project at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, which chose not to take a position on the matter.

Indiana state law already limits marriage to between one man and one woman. But supporters want the law inserted into the constitution so judges can’t later overturn it. State courts have already upheld the law once.

The proposed amendment specifically says, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

The second sentence would ban future legislators from enacting civil unions in the future, and might shield a host of other laws from ever being changed.

The General Assembly must approve the measure again in 2013 or 2014 before Hoosiers would get the final say on the matter with a statewide vote in the fall of 2014.

Attempts to remove the second sentence would start the entire process over again. Last year an amendment offered in the Senate to do so garnered only 32 votes in support but one of those was from incoming Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann.

Richard Sutton, immediate past president of Indiana Equality Action, said the group is prepared to fight against the amendment this session but noted the group has a better chance defeating it at the ballot box.

“The voters are way ahead of the General Assembly on this issue,” he said, noting the group already has a major campaign planned for 2014.

Senate Republican leadership declined to comment while reviewing the report.

nkelly@jg.net

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