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Indiana State House Advances Constitutional Ban On Marriage Equality

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The Indiana House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Tuesday in a 57-40 vote. While marriage equality is already illegal in Indiana, the proposed amendment would enshrine marriage as being between one man and one woman in the state constitution.

All the votes cast in favor of the ban were by Republicans, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Eleven Republicans also joined their Democratic colleagues in opposition to the measure.

“The future of marriage belongs in the hands of Hoosier voters; not judges, not the media, not activists, not lobbyists,” state Rep. Eric Turner (R), the author of the measure, HJR-3, said on Tuesday.

An earlier version of the legislation included a ban on civil unions and a potential block of workplace benefits to same-sex couples, but those provisions were removed before the House voted on it.

Despite the revision, Indiana’s Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) explained that that the original proposal could be reinstated when it comes to his chamber for passage.

“I think we probably would honor the version that comes over from the House,” Long said on Friday, according to the Gazette. “A reverse could happen [on the Senate floor]. It’s really up to the will of the senators here, and it will be their decision, Republican and Democrat.”

Leading up to Tuesday’s House vote, the debate over HJR-3 was incredibly divisive, with several Republican lawmakers expressing concerns about the constitutional ban.

In an effort to bypass skeptical Republicans and assure the amendment’s advancement through committee, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) unexpectedly reassigned the legislation from the state House Judiciary Committee to the more conservative House Elections and Apportionment Committee last week.

One Republican state House candidate, Andy Markle, even left his party over the last-minute switch.

“[H]e is using extraordinary and unprecedented rules to change House Joint Resolution 3's committee assignment, I have no choice but to resign my candidacy as a Republican,” Markle wrote on his Facebook page. “As an openly gay male and a conservative, I find it deplorable that the state would choose to take such extraordinary measures to disenfranchise me and my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters.”

Another vocal opponent has been Chris Smith, who is openly gay and the son of state Rep. Milo Smith (R), one of the Republicans who voted to advance the ban.

"I'm not here to badmouth my dad," Chris wrote on LGBT advocacy group Indiana Equality’s Facebook page on Saturday, three days after his father first voted to pass the resolution out of his committee and onto the full House. "I'm terribly disappointed in his decision and beliefs, but he's not going to change them now if he hasn't after all these years of knowing I am gay. I am here to support you and my friends who remain in Indiana. They are my extended family."

The soonest HJR-3 could appear on the ballot is 2016. In order to be placed before voters, the amendment must first be approved in two successive legislative sessions of the Indiana General Assembly. It passed both the House and the Senate in 2011, and now needs to clear the Senate.

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