INDIANAPOLIS – The push to ban gay marriage in the Indiana Constitution passed the Indiana Senate 32-17 Monday, but opponents still claimed victory in delaying a public vote on the measure until 2016.
“We can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief that lawmakers are finished with the amendment this session, and it will not appear on the ballot this November,” said Megan Robertson, campaign manager for the coalition Freedom Indiana.
“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. Every Hoosier who made a phone call, wrote a letter, sent an email, showed up at the Statehouse or helped oppose HJR3 in another way should be proud today.”
Five Republicans voted against the proposal, and all northeast Indiana senators supported the measure.
House Joint Resolution 3 defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Indiana law already says that, but some believed constitutional protection was needed.
The House earlier this session removed the second sentence banning anything “substantially similar” to marriage, including civil unions.
If the language had remained, Hoosiers could have voted on the measure in November.
But now the process to amend the Constitution restarts – requiring another separately elected legislature to approve the same language in 2015 before a public vote in 2016.
Nothing the state does can stop a federal judge from deciding gay marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, sponsor of the resolution, said the Senate has approved the language in varying forms six times.
“I think this is good for our state and for our citizens,” he said.
Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, didn’t speak but earlier had a lengthy news conference expressing his frustration with the process. He chose not to pursue a last-ditch maneuver to change the language.
He was one of the five Republicans who voted no. While several are philosophically against the proposal, Delph, a staunch supporter, said he couldn’t vote for it in its current form because it does little to protect traditional marriage.
“If we can’t get the marriage amendment to the public now, I’m not convinced we ever will,” Delph said.
He also blamed Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, for controlling the process in such a way that the second sentence wasn’t reinserted.
Long defended the process, noting it was a caucus decision not to restore the provision. And said he thinks the measure will probably make it to the 2016 ballot.
“I do think the people of Indiana need to weigh in on this. They need to weigh in on a constitutional amendment that is clear, unequivocal, does not have baggage like the second sentence had,” he said.
And Long said he hopes social conservative groups stung by the delay recognize that “this was the right way to go … because I think HJR3 in its original form could have crashed and burned this fall on the second sentence.”
Several Senate Democrats tried to defeat the bill outright Monday during debate but lacked enough support.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, reminded the chamber of a time when it was illegal in Indiana for him to marry his wife, who is white.
And he noted that he shakes the hands of the young pages everyday.
“I guarantee you there will be a day when those kids will have to take this out” of the Constitution, he said. “Let’s stop this now.”