This week the Indiana Legislature returned to work for the 2014 session, and it certainly has not been a slow start. The first vote of this year’s legislative session is on an extremely controversial and divisive topic. The bill, House Bill 1153, before the legislators is whether an amendment will be added to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.
According to the Indianapolis Star, the House Judiciary Committee, a panel of 13 lawmakers, are set to vote at 10 a.m. on Monday, January 13, on whether the bill will head to the entire legislature.
The four Democrats sitting on the committee are expected to vote no. However, it is unclear how three Republicans who are still up in the air on the amendment will vote. These three lawmakers are Rep. Daniel Leonard of Huntington; Rep. Wendy McNamara of Mount Vernon, and Rep. Jerry Torr of Carmel. All three voted in favor of a similar bill when it passed the General Assembly in 2011. The amendment must pass a second time before it can be put on the ballot in November for a final vote by voters. If passed, it will become law.
Groups on both sides are advocating actively for their position, and the issue has become a hot button topic as public opinion has shifted away from this amendment, as Indiana based companies like Eli Lilly and Cummins have both declared opposition to the amendment and have funded efforts to shoot down the bill.
Leonard told the Indianapolis Star he is on the fence due to part of the amendment which bans other arrangements “substantially similar” to marriage, which would include civil unions. However, House Republicans have introduced a companion bill to clarify the amendment’s intent, stating that the amendment is not intended to deny employer health benefits to same-sex couples or to circumvent local ordinances that prohibit discrimination.
Both Eli Lilly and Cummins offer benefits for domestic partners.
Torr told the Indianapolis Star that he is leaning towards voting against the amendment this time but wants to hear testimony before making his decision. However, he is listening to his constituents on the issue.
However, lawmakers anticipate the amendment will pass after an emotional debate. The bill is expected to come forward for a final vote on the House floor by Thursday.