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General Assembly

Gay marriage amendment shelved

Civil unions’ wording gone; pivotal vote set Monday

– The push to ban gay marriage in the Indiana Constitution will not go to Indiana voters this year.

Senate Republicans decided Thursday not to restore a controversial second sentence banning civil unions in the future.

That means if House Joint Resolution 3 passes Monday – which is likely – the process will move to the next legislature in 2015 with the earliest public vote in 2016.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he agrees with the result.

“It was my preference not to have the second sentence in there. I’m not convinced it was necessary. If we were starting the process over today, we wouldn’t have it in there,” he said.

“I think the second sentence was unnecessary, a distraction and something we are better off without in this entire discussion.”

Long said he expects the measure to pass Monday.

He believes the lone sentence in the proposed constitutional amendment will preserve traditional marriage on a state basis, though he conceded the U.S. Supreme Court could rule against state bans.

House Joint Resolution 3 defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Indiana law already mirrors this language, but some believed constitutional protection was also needed.

The House earlier this session removed the second sentence banning anything “substantially similar” to marriage.

Two amendments were filed in the Senate to restore it, but there was not enough support to pass them in the Republican caucus.

If the language had been reinserted, Hoosiers could have voted on the measure in November.

Supporters contend the second sentence is needed to stave off attempts at giving gays and lesbians marriage-like rights, while opponents say it is mean-spirited to deny any possible protections for gays and lesbians in the future.

The Senate was silent when the resolution was called, and no amendments were proposed. Cheers erupted from opponents to HJR3 in the Statehouse hallway and continued hours later with an impromptu pizza party.

“This is a resounding victory. I’m absolutely elated,” said Colin Aumiller, of Fort Wayne.

The 28-year-old optician has been to the Statehouse every time a key vote has come up. As a gay man, he is personally invested in the debate, but he has also seen a young gay student kill himself after being the victim of homophobic bullying.

“This nasty debate presented a danger to all kids,” Aumiller said.

The highlight of the day, however, might have been when his mother sent him a picture of her wearing a red shirt – the color of love that opponents adopted for the battle.

“It was her first-ever selfie, but she wanted to support me,” he said.

He and other opponents were vocal before the Senate session, along with equally boisterous supporters asking for the right to vote this year.

The Rev. Andrew Hunt III of Indianapolis shocked those in the chamber and outside when he delivered a prayer urging the members to support the amendment in its original form.

He spoke of “allowing the majority to rule” and not lowering moral standards to appease a few. Hunt also focused on God judging their actions.

Long said he was invited by a legislative chaplain last week, and clearly broke Senate protocol.

“That was a surprise,” he said. “I already apologized to anyone who was offended, as far as the fact that it was a political prayer.”