INDIANAPOLIS – More than 200 people attended a Statehouse rally Monday to send a message to lawmakers: If the state's constitution is amended to ban same-sex marriage, it would affect more than gay couples.
Candace Gingrich, who works for the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign and is a half-sister of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, told the crowd that the amendment would affect all unmarried couples in Indiana.
The proposed constitutional amendment has two sections, the first saying that marriage in Indiana is solely the union of one man and one woman. The second part says the state constitution or state law cannot be construed to provide the benefits of marriage on unmarried couples or groups.
Gingrich said lawmakers need to understand what the second part of the amendment would do.
"They need to read the fine print," Gingrich said. "We've got to educate people about the second line of that amendment."
Proponents say the amendment is needed to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage from lawsuits and activist judges.
Critics say the measure is discriminatory. Opponents also say the second provision is vague and could be used to nullify domestic violence laws that apply to married and unmarried couples, as well as contracts that unmarried senior couples sometimes have to retain inheritances and share legal, financial and health care decisions.
College student Lisa Sklar, a lesbian who spoke at the rally, said she has the same hopes and dreams as others and would one day like to have a wife. She said she plans to leave Indiana after graduation and move to a more understanding state.
"I will not settle for being a second class citizen in the state of Indiana," she said.
The Indiana Senate has already approved a resolution supporting the constitutional amendment. The House, which Democrats control 51-49, could now consider the proposal. House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said last year that he would allow a vote on the proposed amendment.
The General Assembly two years ago overwhelmingly approved a resolution on the amendment. For the amendment to become official, it would have to pass the General Assembly this year or next without any changes, and then be approved in a statewide vote in the 2008 general election.
Opponents at the rally, organized by a gay rights group called Indiana Equality, planned to lobby lawmakers Monday afternoon, but House members were holding caucus meetings when the rally concluded.
Several members of the crowd went to a room in the Statehouse basement where they were told lawmakers, including Bauer, D-South Bend, might be meeting. They stomped their feet and chanted "Pat, Pat, come out and talk," before realizing the room was empty. Some said they hoped lawmakers would talk to them about the bill later.