By Tim Peacock
During the hearing on HJR-3 House hearing in Indiana yesterday, the legislature passed an amendment to the anti-gay bill removing the conflicted second sentence that would've effectively banned all legal relationship statuses between same sex partners (including civil unions). Because of this amendment (which passed with a 52-43 vote), if the House (and Senate) pass the amended version, the state legislature would have to vote a second time on this new version of the amendment before it goes to a vote (because Constitutional amendments in Indiana must pass in the same exact form in two consecutive legislative sessions).
That's not to say the amendment couldn't still go to the ballot this year. Should the Indiana Senate pass the bill in its original form (and send it through a House reconciliation vote on that version) it could still be placed in front of Indiana voters. Otherwise, with the amended legislation, the earliest Indiana voters could see a same sex marriage on the ballot would be 2016. Zack Ford at ThinkProgress has more:
"The second sentence had become such an issue of contention that a separate bill was introduced expressing the “legislative intent” of HJR 3. According to HB 1153, the amendment would not have prevented private companies from offering benefits to same-sex couples. The introduction of this separate bill, however, only strengthened the case that the amendment’s language was unclear. Both state and federal conservative groups have been championing HJR 3, but this development means there’s nothing for them to champion in Indiana this year."
Reacting to the amendment and the derailment of this year's intended ballot vote, Freedom Indiana said:
"The House just approved an amendment to HJR-3 that strips the anti-freedom amendment of the second sentence, which would ban all protections for gay & lesbian families. With a vote count of 52 in favor and 43 against, the amendment passed through the house floor. Today’s vote bolsters the case supporters like you have helped us make all along: HJR-3 is a flawed bill and it has dangerous consequences for thousands of Hoosier families. The second sentence of HJR-3 would have far-reaching ramifications for gay and lesbian Hoosiers who just want to protect their families. Because HJR-3 was amended, even if the Senate approves this version of the bill, HJR-3 would still have to pass in the 2016 legislative session before reaching the ballot. We are incredibly grateful to members of the House — Democrats and Republicans — who did the right thing today by striking down this deeply-flawed and harmful clause. But we haven’t won yet. HJR-3 is still alive, and in order to ensure that it stays off the ballot — or at the very least, that the second sentence stays removed — we have to work harder than ever in the Senate, starting right now."
There's no word as of now if Brian Brown (and by extension the National Organization for Marriage - NOM) still intend to carry out their rally scheduled for today. They spent the better part of the last few days vigorously campaigning for HJR-3 only to hit this setback, so time will tell.