Indiana lawmakers today effectively killed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prohibited marriage equality, or any form of legal relationship recognition for same-sex couples, reports the Associated Press.
The State Senate passed an amended version of House Joint Resolution 3 today, without reinstating the language banning civil unions or similar legal relationships that was removed by the House last month. Because Indiana law mandates that a constitutional amendment be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions with exactly the same language, today's vote in favor of the amended bill effectively restarts the process. Indianans will not see the constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November.
"Six months ago, if you’d said lawmakers would refuse to put this issue on the ballot in 2014 by stripping out the deeply flawed second sentence, I’d have said there’s no way," Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson said in a statement on the LGBT group's website. "What happened today at the Statehouse is a testament to the tens of thousands of Hoosiers who have shared their stories with lawmakers and with the public to show the harm this amendment would do to their families and our state. It’s clear that lawmakers listened. We continue to oppose the amendment in any form, but make no mistake: This is a huge victory."
Although Indiana statute already prohibits same-sex marriage, HJR-3 sought to enshrine that discriminatory premise into the state's constitution. As passed by the Senate today, the amendment would still define marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman but would not additionally prohibit civil unions and other marriage-like arrangements for same-sex couples. With the new language, the earliest Hoosiers could see the constitutional amendment on the ballot would be 2016, according to Senate president pro tem David Long.
Republican senator Mike Delph had reportedly prepared an amendment to the bill that would have restored that far-reaching second sentence, but did not introduce that amendment in today's hearing, citing a lack of support among lawmakers, according to the AP.
In January, the House voted 52-43 to remove the amendment’s second sentence, which explicitly banned non-marriage-based relationship recognition for same-sex couples. That made the measure different from the one both chambers approved in 2011, which means that even with the Senate's approval today, the legislation would have to be reintroduced and passed in an additional, sequential legislative session before it could appear on the ballot. The initial proposal to change the language came from Rep. Randy Truitt, a Republican.