INDIANAPOLIS | The marriage amendment debate could effectively be concluded as soon as Thursday after Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, kept his word and advanced House Joint Resolution 3 out of the Senate Rules Committee on Monday with no changes.
The 8-4 party-line vote to send the proposal to the full chamber sets up a Senate floor showdown over whether to reinsert a second sentence banning civil unions and all other like-marriage arrangements, including possibly employer-provided domestic partner benefits, that was dropped by the House.
Supporters of the marriage amendment insisted the second sentence is necessary to prevent a court challenge because the first sentence limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, as Indiana law already does, is problematic if marriage also is not established as a privileged institution.
"It's not enough to just define marriage in an amendment like this, you have to defend marriage," said Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute. "Marriage is uniquely a man-woman institution centered on child-bearing and child-rearing because man-woman relationships are unique in their ability to produce children."
Smith said the Indiana Family Institute would prefer to see the amendment defeated rather than have it go forward without the second sentence.
The Indiana Constitution requires a proposed amendment be approved by two separately elected legislatures before it is submitted to Hoosier voters for ratification or rejection. The two-sentence marriage amendment was approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2011.
If the Republican-controlled Senate does not put the second sentence back in the proposal, the amendment will not be on the ballot in November.
It likely will be forwarded to the 2015-16 legislature, which will decide whether to put the one-sentence amendment on the ballot in 2016.
However, opponents urged senators during Monday's nearly four-hour committee hearing not only to keep the second sentence out, but to kill the marriage amendment altogether when it comes up for a final vote, probably next week.
"We believe the right course of action for the General Assembly is to adopt a position of doing no harm," said Stephen Fry, senior vice president for human resources at Eli Lilly and Co. "We must ask ourselves: Should we now take the risky step of throwing our state into an expensive, divisive, 10-month culture war that will generate significant negative publicity for our great state?"
Two Northwest Indiana lawmakers serve on the Rules Committee — state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, voted against the amendment; state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, agreed to send it to the full chamber.
Charbonneau insisted he supports "a healthy debate among all members and the public," but refused to say how he would vote on reinserting the second sentence or final passage.
Arnold said it doesn't make sense to be "locking intolerance" in the state constitution, especially in a state where "job creation is job one," when leading employers say even the debate over the marriage amendment already is making it more difficult for them to recruit top talent to Indiana.