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Supporters, opponents of same-sex marriage square off in Indiana

Monday, January 13, 2014
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Updated: 1:30 p.m. EST

INDIANAPOLIS — Supporters of amending the Indiana Constitution to ban gay marriage called the move a necessary protection against judicial activism, while opponents argued before a House panel Monday that the ban would hurt business efforts to recruit and attract talent.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, called the amendment necessary to prevent court decisions that have overturned marriage bans in other states. Turner introduced the proposed amendment last week, along with a companion measure designed to assuage concerns the amendment could limit employer benefits for same-sex couples.

But members of Freedom Indiana, a coalition opposing the amendment, said the ban would harm the ability of employers to attract top talent to Indiana. Executives for Columbus engine-maker Cummins and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly told stories of their problems in recruiting talent from around the world.

The proposed amendment would place the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution, along with a ban on civil unions or other legal recognition “similar” to marriage.

Activists tailored their testimony to a small audience, the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which will vote on the measure later Monday afternoon.

Jeremy Wentzel, student body president at Wabash College, talked of his dedication to conservative principles of limited government and low taxation, while also being gay. Wentzel, a Brown County native, said lawmakers’ consideration of the amendment is making it harder for him to stay in Indiana once he graduates.

“I can be a young gay conservative anywhere,” Wentzel said. “But when it comes to being a young gay conservative and raising a family, that just means I can’t be a Hoosier now.”

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A few hundred opponents packed the House chamber and halls outside the House Monday as the committee heard hours of testimony. Opponents, who wore red to signal their opposition, cheered as oppon ents testified Monday. The packed hallways recalled the protests of union members during the 2011 and 2012 sessions, but marriage protesters were much quieter.

If the measure passes the House Judiciary Committee it would head to the 100-member House for consideration next.

Altering the state constitution requires votes in two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly and the support of voters. A bipartisan group of representatives and senators overwhelmingly supported the measure in 2011, but the issue has drawn much more attention this year and stronger opposition.

Developing story, check back for updates.

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