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INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to amend the Indiana Constitution to prohibit gay marriage and civil unions.

The 50-member body voted 40-10 in favor of House Joint Resolution 6, with three Democrats, including state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, joining all 37 Republicans in support of the proposed amendment.

The Republican-controlled House approved the constitutional amendment 70-26 in February.

Tuesday's vote completes the first step in a three-step amendment process. The identical amendment must be approved by the 2013-14 General Assembly and then by Hoosier voters to officially add the language to the state constitution.

State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, the sponsor, said the amendment is needed to affirm "that marriage is and should be the union of one man and one woman."

Since 1986, Indiana law has limited marriage to one man and one woman. State law also bars recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. 

Kruse and other supporters said a constitutional amendment will ensure a judge can't someday find those laws discriminatory and strike them down.

But state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said attitudes about homosexual relationships and gay marriage are changing rapidly, and it's wrong to tie the hands of future Hoosiers with this amendment.

"Is it prudent to put something into the constitution upon which in another five, 10, 15 years people will look back and say, 'Why did they do that?'" Lanane said.

State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, said it is hypocritical of "small government" Republicans to support an amendment that sticks government's nose into people's bedrooms.

"You say government is too big, it should not be involved with dictating to corporations what they should do and people's private lives, but here we are trying to dictate a relationship between two people," Randolph said. "Isn't that an intrusion?"

A statewide public opinion poll conducted earlier this month for Indiana Equality Action found 47 percent of Hoosiers oppose the amendment, while 43 percent said they support it.

Nationwide, none of the 30 constitutional bans on gay marriage submitted to a state's voters has been rejected.