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Zoeller gets lawmakers’ input on amendment

– 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.

Indiana’s battle comes shortly after three separate federal court rulings 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 the issue.

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.