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Indiana begins long debate over same-sex marriage

Indiana begins long debate over same-sex marriage

Amending Indiana's constitution to ban same-sex marriage will take at least three years to complete, but one thing is clear: Emotions on both sides are running high right now. Evidence of that was clear Tuesday, when additional troopers patrolled the statehouse to ensure that tensions among hundreds of people with highly charged, clashing convictions were kept in check. Dueling rallies for and against the proposed amendment began in relative peace. In the end, troopers were clearing paths between the outspoken sides to safely usher out over 1,000 people from the statehouse. The fight, given Indiana's lengthy requirements for amending the constitution, is far from over and only entered a new, early round Tuesday. About 500 people first gathered outside one entrance of the statehouse and lined nearly two blocks of the adjacent street protesting a proposal they said was rooted in hate and bigotry. As they decried the legislation amid swirling snow showers, more than 1,000 people packed the statehouse hailing the proposed amendment. They said it was vital to protecting traditional marriage from activist judges who could someday overturn the state's current law banning same-sex marriage. Many opponents eventually went inside, some heckling those who spoke in favor of the ban by calling them fascists, bigots, and Nazis. Although seven or eight troopers usually patrol the statehouse, state police major Thomas Melville said 14 more were on hand to ensure order. One woman was handcuffed briefly but soon released after she agreed to a trooper's order to leave the building. But Melville said later that state police still plan to pursue a charge against her for resisting law enforcement. The Indiana senate has passed a resolution that could eventually amend the constitution by defining marriage as "the union of one man and one woman." It also says state law "may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." Amending the constitution requires a resolution to be approved by consecutive, separately elected legislatures. If it passes this session and again in 2007 or 2008, it could be on the 2008 general election ballot and take effect if approved in a statewide vote. A similar resolution passed the Republican-controlled senate with bipartisan support last year, but Democrats who controlled the house then refused GOP attempts to advance or even debate it. Republicans now have a 52-48 majority in the house, and house speaker Brian Bosma has pledged efforts to pass the proposed amendment this session. "It's about protecting what has been for a millennia the cornerstone of our civilization," said Bosma. The pro-amendment rally was organized by Advance America, a group that calls itself a pro-family and pro-church statewide organization. It was founded by conservative activist Eric Miller, who fired up supporters who packed the statehouse. Several lawmaker supporters attended, and Republican attorney general Steve Carter spoke in support. The opposition rally was a grassroots effort organized in part by Pepper Partin of Indianapolis, who said the amendment promotes hatred and intolerance by people who consider homosexuality a mere lifestyle choice. "They're telling people if gays and lesbians are allowed to marry that procreation will come to a screeching halt," Partin said. Some protesters came from outside Indiana, including Debra Moddelmog of Columbus, Ohio. She said her state amended its constitution in the last election to deny legal status to all unmarried couples and did not want Indiana to do the same. "This amendment is not going to be good for anyone in Indiana," she said. (AP)

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