Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

January 27, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Speaker Bosma and the second sentence

Marriage amendment could define his career.

(Continued)

On Jan. 13, when HJR-3 was debated in the House Judiciary Committee, that second sentence was a lightning rod. When Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp Jr., testifying for the amendment, was pressed on whether the second sentence would “prohibit” any type of civil union in the future, he agreed.

So flawed is that second sentence House Republicans came up with House Bill 1153, which in clunky fashion attempts to “explain” what the “framers” of the amendment really meant. The problems with it are immense. The companion legislation wasn’t in the version passed by the Legislature in 2011. That right there almost guarantees a legal challenge.

The end result of the Jan. 13 judiciary committee hearing was gridlock, with three Republican members so concerned about the second sentence they either planned to vote against the amendment or were undecided. HJR-3 was in danger of going down to defeat in a Republican-dominated committee.

This is where Bosma made a decision to “own” HJR-3 and become its face. And it is where his political fate is now intertwined. Last Tuesday, he calmly announced HJR-3 and HB 1153 would be moved to the House Elections Committee. And about 30 hours later, by a party-line 9-3 vote, it was passed on to the House floor where it will be heard this week.

State Rep. Eric Turner, who sponsored the bill, testified, “The constitutional amendment we are proposing simply protects existing state law.”

But when Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, asked, “This will outlaw civil unions, correct?” Turner responded, “Yes.”

So it isn’t really the same as the state law that was passed with bipartisan support in 1997 and signed by Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon. It will outlaw civil unions at the very time when polling shows most Americans and most Hoosiers believe same-sex couples should at least be accommodated with property, benefits, taxation, hospitalization and deathbed rights.

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