Gay marriage bill up for full House vote

Gay Marriage Bill passes committee
Gay Marriage Bill passes committee

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After passing out of an Indiana House committee Wednesday night, the bill banning gay marriage will have its second read in the House the week of January 27 to 31. The third and final reading of the bill known as HJR-3 will follow that and should be followed by a vote.

If it passes out of the House, the entire procedure will start over in the Senate. If it passes there, the public in November will have the chance to vote whether or not to add an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage is already illegal in Indiana, but adding it to the constitution would make that harder to change in the future. It would also stop people from saying the law is unconstitutional because the same provision would actually be in the constitution. However, if the U.S. Supreme Court and federal constitutionality questions could overrule it.

To change the state constitution, two different General Assemblies have to pass the same bill with the same wording. The same version of HJR-3 passed in 2011. That means there can’t be any amendments to HJR-3 going forward or the clock would start over. If a bill with different wording passes, it wouldn’t be until 2016 that a constitutional amendment could be on the ballot.

“The belief is by 2016 there won’t be the public sentiment to pass it into the constitution. So there’s a certain amount of pressure right now at this very moment,” Andy Downs, a political analyst with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, said.

If HJR-3 passes out of the statehouse, it’s still up to the public to change the constitution. Either way, there’s still already a law in Indiana making gay marriage illegal.

“It’s only been challenged once and it failed,” Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-District 80, said. “So, to bring this up now and to have the air wars with commercials and everything else that will come with it will just tear apart the state.”

GiaQuinta voted ‘no’ in the committee vote Wednesday. The bill had been in the Judiciary committee, but when it seemed like it wouldn’t make it out, House Speaker Brian Bosma moved it to the Elections and Apportionment committee.

“This, to some degree, does violate the norms. It’s not that common that bills get moved. It’s something that happens and happens frequently but this is a little unusual,” Downs said.

GiaQuinta agreed bills do move around committees, but said it’s usually not because it looks like the bill will die if it doesn’t move. He also would have liked more time before having to vote.

“We normally don’t handle constitutional amendments, so that was something new for us. While we tried to prepare as much as possible, and I think we did a good job of asking important questions, certainly we would have liked to have more time to prepare or deliberate.”

GiaQuinta added he doesn’t think the constitutional ban is necessary and the bill is taking away time from more important issues.

Rep. Casey Cox, R-District 85, is on the Elections committee with GiaQuinta and he voted to pass the measure. Cox is also on the Judiciary committee, where the bill started. He was not available Thursday for comment.

When the bill was still in the Judiciary committee, Rep. Dan Leonard, R-District 50, would have had to vote to send it to the full House or not. Thursday he wouldn’t say what his vote would have been had HJR-3 not moved committees.

“I’m fine with it if you take the second sentence out,” Leonard said. “The second part of it deals with domestic couples and civil unions and I take pause there because it deals with a lot more than the definition of marriage.”

Rep. Bob Morris, R-District 84, voted for the amendment in 2011.

“It was one of the easiest votes that I took and it will be very easy for me this year,” Morris said. “Marriage is between a man and a woman. That will be my vote on Tuesday and I’m happy it got out of committee.”

As it moves through the legislature, the bill is bringing a lot of national attention to Indiana.

“Supporters of the ban see Indiana and say, ‘If it can’t be done in Indiana, where can it be done,’” Downs said. “We’re a conservative state, a lot of democrats are conservative and it’s on the books as a law. If it’s going to happen, this is the sort of place it would happen. So, if it can’t happen here, then where could it happen.”

Lobbyists from both sides have already been working hard and it will only ramp up if the amendment is sent to the ballot.

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