The state House elections committee voted 9-3 along party lines to
advance the proposed amendment and a companion bill to a vote of the
full House. Nine Republicans voted for the proposals and three
Indiana's General Assembly approved the proposed amendment in 2011
and must approve it a second time, in the current session, to put
the question to voters in November.
Indiana bans gay marriage by statute. Sponsor Republican
Representative Eric Turner told lawmakers that an amendment would
provide additional protection from court challenges.
"As we have seen in the last few weeks and even the last few days,
not having constitutional protection makes our state susceptible to
judicial interpretation," Turner said.
Little more than a decade ago, none of the 50 U.S. states recognized
same-sex marriage. Thirty-three ban gay couples from marrying by
state constitutional amendment, statute, or both.
However, 17 states plus the District of Columbia now recognize gay
marriage, including eight states where same-sex marriage became
legal in 2013. Same-sex couples also would have the right to marry
in Utah and Oklahoma if federal court rulings overturning bans in
those states are upheld on appeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year issued two high profile decisions
on gay marriage. One ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act,
a federal law that denied federal benefits to legally married
same-sex couples. The other paved the way for gay marriage to resume
Democratic Representative Kreg Battles said putting the amendment on
the ballot could expose children to ugly political advertising on
television and radio for a ban that is already part of state law.
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"Are we going to be proud as a body of that," Battles said. "We are
going to let the people vote, but we wrought that."
The proposal would amend Indiana's constitution to define marriage
as between one man and one woman and add that "a legal status
identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried
individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
Critics have said such a definition of marriage could lead to the
repeal of anti-discrimination laws and prohibit private companies
from providing domestic partner benefits.
Turner and other amendment supporters have said the companion bill
would make it clear lawmakers are not trying to ban domestic
partnerships or local human rights ordinances. It would not permit
Wednesday's vote was possible after some maneuvering by House
Speaker Brian Bosma. Bosma told reporters on Tuesday he reassigned
the amendment and companion legislation to the elections committee
when it became clear they would not likely make it out of the
committee where they had been assigned.
The House judiciary committee on January 13 heard testimony on the
proposals, but no vote was taken. Many proponents and opponents of
the proposed amendment testified both days.
(Reporting by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz; editing by David Bailey and Ken
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