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Governor Mitch Daniels says businesses talking gay marriage

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 7:58 am

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mitch Daniels said Wednesday he has been hearing from companies that fear that a measure that would put Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution might also prevent firms from offering benefits to gay couples.

The measure was approved by lawmakers last year and could come up for a vote again next year. If approved twice, it would go before voters in 2014.

The language in the constitutional ban would go further than barring marriage. It would bar "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals," potentially prohibiting benefits for gay couples typically associated with marriage.

Daniels says he heard from companies on the issue as recently as Wednesday morning but gave little specifics. Daniels has never taken a position on the issue and declined Wednesday to say whether he supports the ban.

"They wouldn't want their ability to offer benefits and that sort of thing limited. They think it's fair. They think it's important at least in case of some of their employees," he said.

Indiana businesses, including Eli Lilly and Cummins, testified against the ban in 2011, arguing it could hurt their efforts to lure talented workers to Indiana. Daniels said Wednesday he understood that argument, but also pointed out that Indiana would join other states that banned gay marriage in their constitutions.

Daniels, who is leaving office, did not have to sign the ban the first time lawmakers approved it because constitutional amendments do not require the governor's signature. Asked for his own thoughts on gay marriage, he declined to say, noting he did not want to influence lawmakers and incoming Gov.-elect Mike Pence on the issue.

Despite a likely easy road to passage a second time in the Legislature, it remains unclear if the measure would be pushed through during next year's session or in 2014. And action from the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced last week it would take up a pair of cases on the broader issues, could make any action in the states moot.

Opponents of the ban who met with Pence's transition team say they were told pushing the proposal would not be a "priority" for the new governor. And the lead House sponsor of the measure in 2011, state Rep. Eric Turner, Cicero Republican, said earlier this month he was not sure if or when he would introduce the measure for its second approval.