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Ill. gay marriage OK could influence Ind. debate

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Photo: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Photo: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Opponents of a push to amend Indiana’s gay marriage ban into the state’s constitution say Illinois lawmakers’ approval of same-sex marriage is a big victory that could help their cause.

Rick Sutton of Indiana Equality Action said the Illinois Legislature’s passage Tuesday of the gay marriage bill is a “monumental” victory that could boost gay-rights advocates fighting Indiana’s proposed amendment.

But amendment supporter Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute predicts that Indiana will feel little effect from Illinois’ pending law, which awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

“We haven’t taken our cue from Illinois since the Civil War,” Smith told The Indianapolis Star.

Illinois is set to join 14 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage. Indiana’s other adjacent states—Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky—all ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions.

A spokesman for Equality Illinois said the advocacy group’s attorneys believe out-of-state couples will be able to get married once the pending law takes effect June 1.

Sutton, who also is president of Freedom Indiana—a coalition fighting the amendment—said that would make Illinois’ decision important because more than 1.7 million Hoosiers live within 30 minutes of the Illinois state line.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the federal government to recognize legal same-sex marriages means Hoosier same-sex couples can now file federal taxes jointly and receive other benefits by marrying in states where it’s legal, even if Indiana doesn’t recognize their unions.

The Indiana General Assembly is expected to vote early next year on the proposed amendment. If it passes, the measure would go to Indiana voters for final approval in November 2014.

Smith, of the Indiana Family Institute, said one lesson the amendment’s supporters might learn from Illinois is the importance of pastors’ involvement.

He said pastors in Illinois pressured lawmakers, delaying a final vote in the Illinois House on gay marriage for nine months.

“If anything, it shows that the church has a very strong role to play, and that will be important in Indiana,” Smith said.

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