The Indiana House approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday to ban gay marriage and civil unions — a step opponents said was unnecessary since same-sex marriage is already illegal in the state.
Supporters say the amendment would provide an additional layer of protection for traditional marriage in case courts later overturn Indiana's law. The Republican-controlled House voted 70-26 to advance the proposal, which must clear two separately-elected Legislatures to get on the ballot for a public vote.
"Marriage is — and should be — the union of one man and one woman," said Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion.
Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, said nothing in the resolution keeps gay people from living together or loving each other. But he said that's different relationship than marriage.
Opponents said the proposal would write discrimination into the state's constitution.
Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said the constitution should protect the minority, and that the proposed amendment goes against that philosophy. He said attitudes about marriage change over time and noted that some states once outlawed interracial marriages.
"What side of history will we stand on?" he asked.
Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, D-Indianapolis, prepared her remarks in the form of a Valentine's Day poem since she anticipated a vote on the proposal Monday. Although the vote was delayed a day, she said her comments still applied since they came from her heart.
Her poem said people would be hurt and communities would be less diverse if the constitution was amended to ban gay marriage.
"Please have the courage to keep the document free of your personal judgment of what marriage should be," she said.
A similar amendment banning gay marriage passed the General Assembly in 2005 when Republicans controlled the House and Senate. But in 2006, Democrats won control of the House and the proposal didn't clear the chamber again while they held power so the process had to start over.
Republicans won control of the House last year, giving the proposal new life. Now that the House has approved the measure, it moves to the GOP-ruled Senate, where it is expected to pass. If the Senate passes the proposal this year, the amendment would have to pass both the House and Senate again in 2013 or 2014 to be on the ballot in 2014.