What's New About Gay-Marriage Bill HJR-3

Perhaps confusing to some Hoosiers, the proposed amendment to the state constitution got a new name, and its backers brought on a companion bill. Here, we distill the latest news in its evolution.

Hoosiers can say goodbye to HJR-6 nominally, though the resolution lives on.

The Indiana legislature made an interesting change yesterday to the controversial House Joint Resolution 6. Moving forward, it will be known as HJR-3. Changing those numbers wasn’t the most intriguing development, though, as that alternation is fairly common in legislative proceedings. The new resolution, filed yesterday by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), is basically HJR-6 for the new year: a proposed constitutional amendment stating that “only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.” Additional language in the proposed amendment would also, in effect, prevent Indiana from granting or recognizing civil unions. None of this has changed with the numbers.

What’s new about HJR-3 is the companion bill that goes along with it: HB 1153. This bill was a cooperative effort between members of both the Senate and the House, and basically attempts to explain vague language in the resolution as well as eliminate concerns about potential consequences to local ordinances and private-sector benefits. Section 3 of HB 1153, for instance, states that the marriage amendment would not prevent employment benefits in the private sector or exclude those who need protection under Indiana’s domestic violence laws. HB 1153 is also meant to stress that civil unions will be banned, but not domestic partnerships. The bill is supposed to make the ballot language more coherent for Hoosiers if the resolution reaches voters in a November referendum.

Instead of changing the initial language of the resolution to make it more understandable, HB 1153 gave the amendment’s backers a way to clarify their intentions. As the bill does not alter the original text of the amendment, supporters contend that it will prevent HJR-3 from being sent back to square one. If HJR-3 passes in the Assembly, voters will decide its fate in the 2014 general election. Though support for HJR-6 was strong among legislators the first time the Assembly brought it up for a vote in 2011, the opposition, led most vocally statewide by the Freedom Indiana coalition, seems to have grown in strength ahead of this latest round of marriage debate. We’ll have to wait and see if HJR-3 and its new companion bill appease legislators who had reservations about voting for the measure. The first hearing for the proposed amendment will take place starting at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 13, among 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee.

To track ongoing developments and changes pertaining to HJR-3, click here.