INDIANAPOLIS — A bill to change Indiana’s Constitution to ensure that marriage is a union between only one man and one woman, passed the Senate, 32-17, but in a weakened form. Since the marriage amendment was changed from the resolution that passed in 2011, it will not go to voters this year. For over a decade, the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) has supported a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.
The Senate vote, which took place Feb. 17, was not seen as a victory by either side, leaving the marriage amendment debate in a state of limbo in Indiana.
Proponents do not feel HJR 3, in its current form, goes far enough to protect marriage because it was watered-down in the House deleting a second sentence, which would have prohibited civil unions and anything similar to marriage. The opponents do not want a constitutional ban or any restriction on same-sex marriage because they claim it is discriminatory.
A push to change Indiana’s Constitution has been in the works for over a decade said the bill’s author Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero. He added that by “not having constitutional protection makes our state susceptible to judicial interpretation” and Turner believes “the future of marriage belongs in the hands of Hoosiers.”
Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, a proponent of defending traditional marriage and passing HJR 3, testified in support of HJR 3 in the House, and urged the Senate to restore the second sentence language to HJR 3. Smith said, “It’s not enough to define marriage in an amendment like this, you must defend marriage. That’s the lesson we have learned from the courts around the country.”
Megan Robinson, Freedom Indiana campaign manager, an opponent of HJR 3, and supporter of same-sex marriage who has led the effort to defeat HJR 3 said, “We remain determined to defeat HJR 3.” However, she added that she was grateful that the Senate did not restore “the extremely dangerous second sentence that would permanently prohibit civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal protections for same-sex couples.”
Smith quoted University of Notre Dame law professor Dr. Gerald Bradley, saying that one of Bradley’s key conclusions regarding marriage is “‘The most effective way to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman is by making sure that no same-sex relationship is treated in law as substantially equivalent to it.’”
Current Indiana law defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but concerns that without a constitutional amendment to explicitly ban same-sex unions and same-sex relationships that are substantially equivalent to marriage, a challenge to Indiana’s current law could force Indiana to recognize them.
To amend Indiana’s Constitution, an identical resolution must be passed by two separately-elected Indiana General Assemblies and then be approved by a majority of voters on a referendum vote. The process to amend Indiana’s Constitution was in its final stages and was expected to pass the Indiana General Assembly this year, and be put on the ballot for approval by Hoosier this November.
While the introduced version of HJR 3 had the identical language of the resolution that passed in 2011, when the Indiana House removed the second sentence, it caused the process to be postponed. According to Tebbe, the soonest the amendment could be approved by a referendum by Hoosier voters would be 2016.
“While it’s disappointing that HJR 3 didn’t pass in its original form, meaning the process to amend Indiana’s Constitution will be delayed, it could prove to be a blessing in disguise,” said Tebbe.
“As we have seen play-out in other states in recent weeks, a successful constitutional amendment of this nature would most certainly be challenged in federal court under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The effect of this type of challenge could potentially speed-up the unravelling of Indiana’s current definition of marriage inadvertently having a reverse effect,” said Tebbe. “So rather than protecting traditional marriage, which is the goal of this constitutional amendment, it could have the unintended consequence of putting Indiana on a fast-track of being forced to recognize same-sex marriage.”
Tebbe said, “The striking phenomenon and remarkable speed of changing attitudes of the nature of marriage shows that the Church has more work to do in forming the faithful on the authentic nature of marriage,” said Tebbe, “Defending the authentic nature of marriage is going to be an ongoing struggle in our modern secular culture, and an effort our faith community will be engaged in.”
The Indiana General Assembly only has a few weeks left to conduct legislative business as they must adjourn by March 14.
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