Sunday, January 12, 2014

Republicans Propose "Companion Bill" to Explain the Intent of Marriage Amendment

The latest wrinkle in the unfolding drama of HJR-3 is the addition of a "companion" bill (House Bill 1153) that will accompany the proposed constitutional amendment to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. The proposed bill is to "clarify" the amendment by stating that its intent "is not to deny employer health benefits to same-sex couples or to circumvent local ordinances that forbid discrimination."

Republicans have claimed that the amendment would not affect the benefits already being provided by many Indiana institutions and businesses, but that would seem to beg the question of why the companion bill is necessary. It would seem to make more sense to modify the amendment, but that would reset the clock and force the amendment to be voted on by the legislature again in two separate sessions. That, in turn, would delay the public referendum vote by years, and Republicans know public opinion is swinging away from their position quickly.

IU law professor Jennifer Drobac says, "This is bad lawmaking. These lawmakers should know what they’re doing." Republican lawmakers might concede that no decently written amendment should need a companion bill to explain it, but they think their inelegant solution may get them what they want: to lock their ideology into the state's constitution before it is inevitably overtaken by more progressive views.

Read more from the J&C here.