INDIANAPOLIS | The marriage debate at the Statehouse is over — for 10 months at least.
The Republican-controlled Senate gave first approval Monday to a proposed constitutional amendment declaring, "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana." Gay marriage is already barred by state law.
House Joint Resolution 3 passed the Senate 32-17, with one Democrat voting for the amendment and five Republicans voting no. The five region Democratic senators all opposed the measure, while the two Northwest Indiana Republicans in attendance voted yes.
The proposal, which cleared the Republican-controlled House 57-40 on Jan. 28, now advances to the 2015-16 General Assembly for those lawmakers to decide whether to put it on the 2016 general election ballot.
A constitutional amendment must be approved by both chambers of two separately elected legislatures for it to go to Hoosier voters to ratify or reject.
Hoosiers could have been asked to vote this year on a marriage amendment that also prohibited civil unions. The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved that proposal — known as House Joint Resolution 6 — in 2011.
But it was changed this year by the House to delete the second sentence, which said, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
The Senate did not restore that second sentence Thursday, and a Monday morning promise by state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, to fight to put it back in came to nothing as Delph sat quietly in his seat during 50 minutes of debate on the marriage amendment Monday afternoon.
Delph said his inaction was in line with the wishes of the Senate Republican caucus. However, Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Delph did not attend the Republicans' nearly three-hour private meeting prior to the Senate convening for the day.
"I didn't feel the need to waste the Senate's time moving it forward; it just didn't have the support," Delph said. "I feel like I've done everything that I could."
Delph was one of the five Republicans to vote against the proposal. He said the one-sentence amendment is meaningless and certain to fall in a legal challenge without the second sentence prohibiting civil unions and all other like-marriage arrangements included.
He accused Long of manipulating the process under which the amendment was considered by the Senate, claiming that had Long assigned it to the Judiciary Committee, which Delph serves on, the second sentence would have gone back in.
Instead, the amendment went to the Rules Committee, which Long chairs, and was forwarded to the full Senate without the second sentence.
"He who controls the process controls the outcome, and I believe the outcome for the marriage amendment was determined long ago by leadership, especially in the Senate," Delph said.
"By in so doing, these leaders have turned their backs in the name of political correctness and inclusion on the core conservative base of the Republican Party."
Long angrily refuted that charge and said Indiana, under his eight years as Senate leader, has been the very definition of conservative orthodoxy.
"I would challenge anyone to find a more conservative, low-tax, pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-education state in the nation since myself and our caucus have been leading the Republican Senate majority," Long said.
Senate debate over the marriage amendment centered on the appropriateness of putting a marriage definition in the Indiana Constitution that deliberately excludes gay Hoosiers, who may want to get married.
State Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said he had no choice but to support the amendment because he believes it is right in the eyes of God.
"Every decision that I make in this room is based upon my God and what he's told me," Young said. "My job is to do what I think is the right thing in my heart; if I did anything else there's no reason for me to be here."
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, said the focus instead should be on living up to the nation's founding principles of freedom and equality for all, which ought not be subject to a popular vote based on the morality of the day.
"We cannot allow prejudice or contempt to be clothed in religious or moral convictions; your religious beliefs are your business, but they should not be used as justification for laws that discriminate against others," Tallian said. "This amendment is against everything we stand for as Americans."
That sentiment was echoed by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, who said senators are making a hollow promise when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each day's session unless they truly uphold "justice for all."
Megan Robertson, the Portage native leading Freedom Indiana, a business-backed group opposing the amendment, said even though the revised marriage amendment will move forward, keeping it off the ballot this year is a major accomplishment.
"We were underdogs in this fight from the outset, but our success reflects the strength of the incredible coalition we were able to build in just six months," she said.
"Every Hoosier who made a phone call, wrote a letter, sent an email, showed up at the Statehouse or helped oppose HJR-3 in another way should be proud today."