02/08/2011 12:09 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Indiana Gay Marriage Ban: Amendment Clears Committee, Headed To Vote

Civil rights groups in Illinois had reason to celebrate at the end of January, as Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a measure allowing civil unions for same-sex couples.

Just over a week later, their neighbors to the east are facing renewed efforts to limit the rights of gay and lesbian partnerships.

An amendment to Indiana's state constitution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions in the state cleared an important hurdle on Monday, passing out of a House committee and headed for a vote by the full body.

This isn't the first time that such an amendment has advanced in the state. In 2005, both houses of the Indiana's legislature passed a gay marriage ban. Fortunately for promoters of marriage equality, though, the process of amending the Indiana constitution is a complicated one: any proposed amendment must pass both houses in two consecutive legislative terms, and when the Democrats took control of the State House in 2006, the measure failed.

Now that Republicans have swept back into power, it's back with a vengeance, according to the Chicago Tribune. The proposal got through committee by an 8-4 margin, with the vote split exactly along party lines.

But as WBEZ reports, support for the amendment isn't only Republican. At least one Democrat, 69th District Rep. David Cheatham, laid out his argument for the amendment:

"Since we have a state law already, why do we need to have this part of the constitution?" Cheatham, of North Vernon, asked. "My view on that is this: We have laws that deal with situations. We have a constitution that deals with foundation issues; fundamental issues. This is a foundation, fundamental issue. Marriage between one man and one woman."

Even if it passes both houses this term, and again in the 2013-2014 session, it would still have to be approved by popular vote.