Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke outlines his opposition to the state's proposed amendment that would ban gay marriage. Mayor Winnecke's views on the controversial topic may differ from some within his own party but not those on City Council.
If approved, the proposed amendment (HJR-6) would put Indiana's current ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution.
In a letter to lawmakers, Mayor Winnecke said the proposed amendment, "is an unnecessarily divisive proposal at a time when the most critical issues of fostering economic development and creating a high quality of life in Evansville, Indiana and America require our shared focus and effort. "
The letter was mailed to many Tri-State delegates including State Senator Vaneta Becker and State Representatives Gail Riecken, Suzanne Crouch, Wendy McNamara, and Ron Bacon.
In a statement released today, Mayor Winnecke said, "I appreciate all that both sides are doing to get their message out; however, my primary focus in regards to lobbying the General Assembly is to make Evansville more competitive for economic development and growth. Issues such as funding for the medical school expansion and proposed elimination of the personal property tax, which would cost the city $7.3 million annually, are my Administration’s current legislative priorities. After receiving numerous requests on my position on HJR-6, I communicated my opposition directly to the legislative delegation representing the city of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, because our state legislators are the initial decision-makers in this process."
The mayor isn't alone in his opposition to the state's proposed amendment.
The Evansville City Council, as a whole, as drafted a resolution that will be filed Wednesday, according to Councilman Jonathan Weaver (D-At Large). The resolution, which could go up for a vote at Monday's meeting, urges lawmakers to reject the amendment.
For Wally Paynter, the president the LGBT advocacy group called the Tri-State Alliance, the recent developments come as welcome news.
"I think the biggest impact... is that the local state representatives and state senators will take a second look and hopefully say maybe this is the wrong way to go for Indiana and especially for Evansville. We always talk about how we have to fight for our freedom and this is the freedom to have everyone treated equally."
Paynter and Councilman Weaver both warn of the potential economic ramifications as well as the stigma associated with potentially banning gay marriage.
"Let's keep the social issues out of politics," said Councilman Weaver. "We want to make sure we recruit and retain the best talent possible for the work force and for the educational institutions. We just want to do what we think is the right thing to do."
"It really just creates havoc for Indiana," Paynter said. "It will create lawsuit after lawsuit. It really would cause more problems than the solution it's trying to be."
Eyewitness News contacted State Representative Ron Bacon. Rep. Bacon says HJR-6 will not impact the domestic partner benefits that many companies provide for their employees. Also, Rep. Bacon says his office has received phone calls from concerned citizens on both sides of the gay marriage debate.