Indiana Gets Closer To A Constitutional Ban On Gay Marriage

On Monday, equal rights took a hit in Indiana when state senators approved an amendment to ban gay marriage under the Indiana state constitution. But activists did see a tiny victory: The measure won't become law until the Indiana public votes to approve it in 2016. The amendment, which was passed by a vote of 32-17, would prohibit same-sex marriage in the state — but requires further action to be enacted into law.

The far-right state is the latest battleground for gay rights. To fully ban same-sex marriage, lawmakers will have to pass the amendment again next year — at the earliest — to get it on a statewide referendum in 2016. Indiana law already forbids same-sex marriage, but constituents have pushed for a constitutional ban on gay marriage for what they say is "additional protection."

The amendment cleared both of Indiana's legislative bodies in 2011, and lawmakers were expecting the same results this time around. Last month, the state's House of Representatives gave it the green light, but the issue received more pushback than anticipated in the Senate.

Monday's original proposal included language that would have banned civil unions as well, but in another (small) victory, lawmakers removed the clause. Five Republicans voted against the amendment, called House Joint Resolution 3, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

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Sen. Scott Schneider, who supports the amendment, said the legislation isn't as strong without the second part banning civil unions, but “we have to learn to take half a loaf rather than no loaf at all.” (Ugh.) Democratic leader Tim Lanane pointed out that the Senate had "the opportunity to make history" by putting an end to HJR-3, and that "time is not on the side of discrimination."

And from Indiana state senator Mike Delph:

So what does this mean for gay marriage in Indiana? Well, it'll be a waiting game to see which way the state goes. The General Assembly (House and Senate committees) will have to approve the ban in 2015, and again in 2016, before the public makes their choice.

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