INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An Indiana Senate committee voted 8-4 Monday evening, along party lines, in
favor of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, setting up a Senate
battle on the issue later this week.
Committee, comprised of Democratic and Republican Senate leaders and chaired
by Senate President Pro Tem David Long, waded through three hours of often
emotional testimony on House Joint Resolution 3, before advancing the
Monday’s vote now
sets up a debate over whether the so-called “second sentence” of HJR 3,
banning civil unions, will be reinserted by Senate lawmakers.
The House narrowly
stripped the “second sentence” ban on civil unions on a bipartisan vote last
month, amid concerns that it went too far, even for supporters of the gay
marriage ban. But HJR 3 supporters have urgently called for the sentence to
be restored in order to set up a November public vote on the issue.
constitutional amendment process requires proposals be vetted in two
consecutive biennial meetings of the General Assembly, then go before voters
in order to be written into the constitution. But passing the ban without
the second sentence would restart the clock, making the soonest any public
vote could happen 2016.
The proposed ban
won broad bipartisan support in 2011, sailing through the General Assembly
with little notice during a year in which sweeping education changes and
five-week walkout by House Democrats dominated the debate. But a strong
coalition of opponents, led by some of the biggest players in the state’s
business and higher education communities, emerged as a powerful force this
president of the Indiana Family Institute and one of the conservatives
leading the charge in favor of HJR 3, argued the “second sentence” is needed
to protect the state against legal challenges, should the proposed ban be
“It’s not enough to
just define marriage in an amendment like this. You have to defend
marriage,” Smith said. “That’s the lesson from the courts.”
One of the
potentially most influential voices, Republican Gov. Mike Pence, has largely
removed himself from the debate, saying he supports reinserting the “second
sentence” but will not be talking about the issue again.
Supporters of the
ban showed up at the Statehouse Monday in larger numbers, in part with the
help of African American church leaders who have mobilized recently. But
they were still outnumbered by opponents, wearing red clothes, as they have
throughout the Statehouse fight, to signify their opposition.
Jennifer Fisher, a
recruiter in Fort Wayne, asked lawmakers to consider the personal
implications of the ban for gay couples raising a family. She noted that she
and her partner, a police officer from Fort Wayne, would like to have
children at some point, but their legal standing in Indiana puts her in risk
of losing their children. “If she is killed in the line of duty, someone
could take away my family,” she said.
The full Senate
could take up debate on the marriage ban as soon as Thursday.