INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Gay couples in Indiana might eventually be able to enter into civil unions,
but not marriages, under changes the House pushed Monday that could
effectively delay a constitutional ban on same sex-weddings.
Opponents of the
marriage ban won a temporary victory with a bipartisan vote to remove a
sentence from the proposed constitutional amendment that would have barred
civil unions in addition to gay marriages. Indiana law currently defines
marriage as between one man and one woman, but supporters are looking to
strengthen that ban by placing it in the state constitution.
If the altered
amendment clears the House and eventually the Senate, it could restart the
clock on the legislative process. Under the amendment process, the same
measure must be approved in two consecutive sessions and then by voters, so
the proposed ban could be pushed back from making the ballot until 2016
instead of 2014.
However, much could
change between now and the end of this session, which is scheduled to wrap
up in mid-March.
outside the chamber cheered loudly Monday after the 52-43 vote to remove the
sentence from House Joint Resolution 3.
Republicans joined 29 Democrats to strip out the second sentence. Outright
opponents of HJR 3 joined with lawmakers who said their concerns lie only
with the second sentence to alter the measure.
Rep. Kevin Mahan,
R-Hartford City, said he still supports Indiana’s current definition of
marriage as he did when he voted in favor of the ban in 2011. But a barrage
of comments from people in his district, which is about halfway between
Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, led him to change his stance on the civil
“During the past
several months I started having many people approach me and ask me to not
support the measure this time,” he said. “They were Republicans, they were
Democrats. They were Catholic, they were Protestants. They were pastors and
elders in the churches. They were my neighbors.”
Supporters of the
ban argued that removing the language would set the state up for a court
challenge delaying the constitutional ban.
“I believe HJR 3,
as written, is the right public policy for the state of Indiana,” said Rep.
Eric Turner, R-Cicero, and the author of the marriage ban. “The second
sentence simply prevents marriage by any other name.”
But the sentence
has been a sticking point for many lawmakers, including some who have said
they otherwise support banning gay marriage.
argued that the civil union language could prevent employers from offering
benefits to same-sex couples.
resident Norman Sider carried a water bottle emblazoned with the Freedom
Indiana logo - the umbrella group opposing HJR 3 - and said he was heartened
by the bipartisan support.
“This is just the
beginning, but it was a successful beginning,” Sider said after watching the
vote. “How this will turn out? I don’t know. But I would hope that both
(House and Senate), when they have a chance to vote, will again be very
As opposition to
the more expansive ban coalesced, one of the strongest Republican supporters
of the proposed ban appeared to take a step back.
House Speaker Brian
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, took a lead role in pushing the measure out to the
full House of Representatives. But he said Monday’s vote fulfilled his
priorities on the issue.
“My goals have been
met in full,” he said. “I had two commitments: One, that the entire body
would have the chance to vote on it. And two, that I wouldn’t ask anybody to
vote any way other than their conscience.”
Mike Pence has taken a sharper stance, saying he prefers to see the issue
settled this year. Pence made a plea to lawmakers in his second State of the
State address earlier this month.
The House could
send the measure to the Senate as soon as Tuesday, setting up the second
major phase of the legislative battle. Senate President Pro Tem David Long,
R-Fort Wayne, has said the measure would be vetted by the Senate Judiciary