INDIANAPOLIS | House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, picked the right committee to muscle the proposed marriage amendment onto the House floor.
On a 9-3 party-line vote Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Elections Committee approved the constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 3, and its companion explanatory legislation, House Bill 1153.
Both likely will get a vote by the full House next week that could send the proposals to the Senate. If approved by both chambers, Hoosier voters would decide in November whether to ratify or reject the amendment.
The committee vote followed more than two hours of, at times, emotional and deeply personal testimony from Hoosiers opposed to the legislation, including Annie Whaley, a Valparaiso University law student, who said God demands those in authority strive to improve life for others and not harm them.
"Becoming leaders comes with the responsibility of realizing that we are working together to change things for the better," Whaley said. "Discriminatory behavior can affect how people view themselves as part of society as well as potentially making them question how God views them as his children."
House Joint Resolution 3 would add the state's existing ban on gay marriage to the Indiana Constitution along with a sentence declaring, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
Supporters of the marriage amendment recited, sometimes word for word, the same testimony they gave during a Jan. 13 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that Indiana's marriage law is in danger and citizens deserve the right to vote on the issue.
"Not having constitutional protection makes our state susceptible to judicial intervention," said state Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, sponsor of both measures. "The future of marriage in Indiana belongs to Hoosier voters."
Democrats on the panel peppered supporters and opponents with questions throughout the hearing, while the Republicans sat silently nearly the entire four and a half hours.
They perked up briefly when Jackie Simmons, chief attorney for Indiana University, warned the second sentence of the amendment probably will bar employers from providing health coverage and other benefits to employees' same-sex partners, regardless of the companion legislation that states those benefits should not be impaired.
State Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, who voted for the amendment in 2011, said the prospect of never-ending court fights over the marriage amendment led him to vote no.
Battles said data show that states with marriage amendments find themselves embroiled in more court challenges than states that only have a law barring gay marriage, and Indiana's statute limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples already has been affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
"By passing this, the only thing we're going to do is increase, not decrease, increase the chances that this will end up, not in state court, but in federal court, where I think frankly most of us ought to have more fear," Battles said. "It's going to cost the state of Indiana tens of millions of dollars when we have schools operating on 2008 budgets."
The sole region lawmaker on the panel, state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, chose not to explain his "yes" vote during the final roll call.
The outcome of the Elections Committee vote was never really in doubt after Bosma on Tuesday reassigned the marriage amendment to it from the Judiciary Committee, where three of the nine Republicans appeared poised to vote with the four Democrats to kill it.