The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill to constitutionalize the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Tuesday. The bill will now move on to the state Senate.
Republican Rep. Milo Smith, chairman of the Elections and Apportionment Committee, oversaw the approval of the HJR-3 bill in committee. Though gay marriage is already illegal in Indiana, the measure would make the ban official in the state constitution.
The bill passed in the House with a close 57-40 vote, according to the Associated Press. The ban originally contained a sentence banning same-sex civil unions along with marriages, and potentially even preventing employers from providing benefits to employees who were part of a same-sex couple. The language was then altered to allow the possibility of civil unions. Representatives from both parties agreed that the original went a measure too far.
Opponents to the ban celebrated the amendment as a victory.
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"Obviously, this is a great night for our campaign, and we're extremely excited to have the second sentence taken out," said Megan Robertson, campaign director for Freedom Indiana.
But, "Getting rid of one bad sentence doesn't fix the whole bill," she added.
The change might make the approval process lengthier. Amending the constitution in Indiana requires that the same measure be approved in two consecutive two-year General Assembly sessions before it can be put forth to voters. So Indiana voters might not be able to cast their ballots for or against until November 2016.
If the Senate decides to keep the bill in its original form with the civil union ban, however, it could be decided by Indiana voters this November.
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Chris Smith, the gay son of Rep. Milo Smith, went online to tell Indiana LGBT advocates that he was “terribly disappointed” with his father’s actions against marriage equality when HJR-3 passed in committee last week. While the General Assembly swiftly approved the ban three years ago, the changing tide of public opinion is changing has led to more opposition this time around.
"Six months ago, this seemed next to impossible," Freedom Indiana volunteer Sully Hussain told the Indiana Star of the civil union amendment.