The Indiana House has approved an amended version of the bill that would ban gay marriage in the state constitution. The altered version strikes a single sentence, now opening the door for civil unions and employee benefits for same-sex couples. The bill, HJR-3, passed 57 to 40.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers narrowly approved altering the proposed constitutional ban Monday evening to remove language that would ban recognition of anything "similar" to marriage for same-sex couples. That section of the amendment had become a sticking point for many legislators who otherwise support the ban.
Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) voted against the ban, saying before the vote that HJR-3 "restricts the Constitution so it cannot breath."
Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) is a supporter of the constitutional amendment. He says some have accused him of letting his faith get in the way, in response he says, "I certainly hope so. I'm not ashamed of it."
In order for the Constitutional Amendment to make it on the ballot, the same version of the bill needs to pass two consecutive General Assemblies, so this change indicates it may not happen this fall.
The amended version of the bill now goes to the state Senate.
Patrick Mangan of Citizens for Community Values is in favor of the bill. He says the battle may not be over yet because the Senate could place the measure back on course to appear on the November ballot.
"One of the things that I would hope would happen is that the Senate would pass the bill as it was, and when they do the reconciliation, that they can take the amendment out, and have this still go through and onto the ballot," says Mangan.
Freedom Indiana, the group fighting against the constitutional ban, reacted to that possibility, but they remain optimistic.
"There are certainly ways people can bring things back to life, but I think it's a positive step in the right direction," says Megan Robertson with Freedom Indiana.
If the Senate passes the bill with the changed language, the earliest the bill could go before the voters is 2016.
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