INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The chief counsel for Indiana state officials said
Friday he has been fielding a lot of questions about placing the state’s gay
marriage ban in the constitution.
The Indiana General Assembly is set to take up a proposed constitutional
amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and benefits for same-sex
couples when it returns next month. Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he’s
heard numerous questions from lawmakers who support the ban as well as those
opposed to the measure.
Zoeller said Friday he could not divulge details of those conversations
because of attorney-client privilege, but said he’s been hearing extensively
from both sides of the issue.
“We have to give honest legal views on how those cases might impact
(Indiana), but it is a very volatile area of the law, particularly when it
comes to federal cases that would be as applicable in Indiana as they would
in states like Ohio or Utah,” he said.
Zoeller represents state lawmakers and other state officials in court and
often provides legal advice.
Indiana’s battle comes shortly after three separate federal court rulings
earlier this month overturned marriage bans in New Mexico, Ohio and Utah.
Indiana is among a handful of states to limit marriage to being between one
man and woman by statute, but not through its constitution.
Opponents of the amendment say it will drive away business, as national
attitudes shift more in favor of gay marriage. Supporters of the
constitutional amendment say it would protect against an Indiana judge
overturning the state ban and also argue Indiana voters should have a say on
In order to be placed in the constitution, the measure must win approval in
two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly and then win
approval from Indiana voters. Lawmakers from both parties overwhelmingly
supported the amendment on its first vote in 2011, but a shifting national
tide and well-funded effort by amendment opponents has raised new questions
about whether the measure would clear the Legislature a second time.
One alternative that has been floated is removing the so-called “second
sentence” in the amendment, which extends the ban to civil unions and
employer benefits. But legislative leaders are split on whether altering the
language would reset the clock on the state’s lengthy constitutional
Zoeller said Friday he had looked into the issue but could not find a clear
“There hasn’t been a case directly on point,” he said. “So had there been a
question asked and answered, I’d be able to point to something specifically
for people to refer to. The fact that it has not been fully addressed leaves
it open to supposition as to what a federal court might do or what a state
court might do.”