INDIANAPOLIS | The battle over the marriage amendment, which so far has dominated the 2014 legislative session, now shifts to the Senate after the House voted 57-40 Tuesday to keep its revised amendment alive.
House Joint Resolution 3 would add Indiana's existing ban on gay marriage to the state Constitution. However, because the House on Monday deleted a controversial second sentence that also would have prohibited civil unions, the proposed amendment likely will not go to Hoosier voters for ratification until at least 2016.
For nearly an hour Tuesday, Republican and Democratic representatives opposed to the amendment urged their colleagues to finish it off once and for all by refusing to send it to the Senate.
"We have not dismantled this stink bomb, we have simply placed a longer fuse on it before it detonates in all of our faces," said House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City. "There is only one true response to this issue. HJR-3 must be tossed into the trash and never allowed to see the light of day."
State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, agreed. He said Indiana law already limits marriage to opposite-sex couples and noted that statute has been upheld by Indiana courts, making it unnecessary to also write it into the state's Constitution.
"This issue has been a distraction. It's been a distraction for a long time, and it's been a distraction this session," Clere said. "It has taken away precious time and attention from other issues that really deserve that attention."
State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, and state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, said they worry about the message it sends and the campaign that will follow if the revised amendment continues toward the ballot.
"Discrimination is an ugly, mean thing," Lawson said, recounting her difficult experiences as the first female Hammond police officer. "There's absolutely no reason why anyone in this world should be discriminated against for any reason whatsoever."
VanDenburgh said every lawmaker took an oath represent all of their constituents. Voting to deny certain rights and benefits to one group of them violates that oath, she said.
"Whether you believe marriage is between one man and one woman, you have to know in your heart that it is wrong to discriminate against any person," she said. "I've gone out of my way, and I know many people have gone out of their way, in raising their children to understand that every person is equal."
Unpersuaded by those arguments, 57 representatives, all Republicans, voted to forward the revised amendment to the Senate, including the five region Republicans. Every Democratic representative in attendance and 11 Republicans voted no.
The proposal is expected to be filed in the Senate later this week and likely will be set for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee the week of Feb. 10.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has said the Republican-controlled Senate "probably would honor" the House decision to delete the second sentence. Though he added the 50 senators do have the power to restore the second sentence to the amendment.
Should the Senate revive and approve the two-sentence amendment, it could be approved again by the House and go on the general election ballot this year.
Otherwise, Senate approval of only the first sentence would forward the proposed amendment to the General Assembly serving during 2015-16, which would decide whether to put the revised amendment on the 2016 ballot.