As the Indiana General Assembly began its third day of the session, the legislature is addressing a measure that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, filed the resolution today. But in addition to the constitutional proposal, which has renamed House Joint Resolution-3 instead of HJR-6, a bill was filed specifying ballot language if the amendment goes to voters in the fall.
There are two sentences in the marriage amendment, formerly referred to as HJR-6 and now called HJR-3.
The first sentence says marriage can only be between one man and one woman. The second bans a legal status substantially similar to marriage for unmarried individuals and has been interpreted by some to exclude private companies and local governments from offering benefits to same sex couples.
House Speaker Brian Bosma says the companion bill to the amendment is meant to ensure that lawmakers aren’t trying to take away something that’s already been given.
“This would clarify for IU and Purdue and the other education institutions and the cities or counties that have done the same thing that that is a local decision,” he says. “That’s a decision by them if they extend those benefits.”
But House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says a companion bill can’t change how a constitutional amendment is interpreted.
“Always remember, the law is subordinate to the constitution,” he says. “There would be nothing to keep a judge or a group of judges from saying, ‘Hey, you know, we probably think these things shouldn’t be allowed.’”
Bosma also says the constitutional amendment would ban civil unions but not domestic partnerships and the bill helps clarify that difference.
Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, says HJR-3 and the companion bill do not shut the door on future debate to allow civil unions.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the marriage amendment Monday.
Claire McInerny contributed to this report.