Democratic Indiana leaders ask for halt to gay marriage battle

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's House and Senate Democratic leaders are asking their Republican counterparts to avoid a gay marriage battle during the 2014 session.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath and Senate Minority Tim Lanane said Tuesday a fight on the highly charged issue would keep lawmakers from addressing more important matters during their upcoming session. Lawmakers returned Tuesday to the Capitol for a formal, one-day meeting before they begin the 2014 session in January.

"Let's raise the per capita income for the state of Indiana. Let's do something to enact meaningful early childhood education for our children," Lenane said.

House Speaker Brian Bosma agreed the amendment isn’t the highest item on the legislative agenda, but he said the chamber will treat it like any other bill.

"This decision shouldn't be made in a corporate board room, it shouldn't be made in a judicial office, and quite frankly, it shouldn't be made in a single legislative leader's office as well. It needs to be made by this body, and we will make that decision together," Bosma said.

Social conservative groups are pushing lawmakers to write the state's ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution. If they win passage during the session, the issue would go to voters next November.

Opponents of the amendment who include members of the business and higher education communities argue that it will paint Indiana as an unfriendly state.

The proposed amendment reads as follows:

“Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals…shall not be valid or recognized.”

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