By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com February 11 2014 8:49 PM ET
An Indiana state Senate committee has advanced a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the full Senate, without a section banning civil unions — a move that could delay a statewide popular vote on the matter.
The Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee Monday voted 8-4 to send the measure to the full Senate, with all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no, The Indianapolis Star reports. The state’s full House of Representatives approved the amendment about two weeks ago, after deleting the portion banning civil unions, and sent it to the Senate.
Unless that section is restored, it’s a setback to the legislation. The Indiana state constitution can be amended only if two separately elected legislatures pass the amendment with the exact same language, and then the public votes to adopt it. The version of the amendment that lawmakers approved in 2011 contained the civil union ban.
“If the Senate passes the House version, then the 2015 legislature would need to pass it again before it could go to voters in November 2016,” because the measure is different from the 2011 version, the Star explains. But if the Senate restores the civil union prohibition and the House then agrees to that, the amendment could go before voters in November.
Indiana already bans same-sex marriage by statute, but bans written into state constitutions cannot, unlike statutes, be struck down by state courts — although they can be nullified by federal courts.
Legislators have heard impassioned testimony in favor of and against the amendment, and the fight over it has sometimes pitted family members against each other. Here, read a commentary piece by a gay man whose father, a state representative, supports the measure.