Constitutional gay marriage ban gets setback

Gathering at the Statehouse for HJR3.
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Indiana's proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage took another step away from the November ballot Thursday. The development is being hailed as a victory for those in support of same-sex marriage when the Senate refused to reinsert a ban that would also cover civil unions.

The hallways echoed with singing and chanting from both sides of the gay marriage debate. They stood shoulder to shoulder expecting a showdown that never came.

Years of work came down to a few seconds.

"Are there any amendments?"

"Chair hears none. Bill is ordered to engrossment."

Opponents to HJR3 see this as a victory.

"A little surprised, yes, but definitely happy.  It is definitely a victory because it will not go to the voters this year," said Michael Dodds, who is against the amendment.

Had the Senate elected to restore the language taken out by the House, and then passed the bill out on Monday, it would have been on the ballot in November. Those who worked and came to the Statehouse to ask lawmakers to restore the language banning civil unions were surprised by lawmakers' inaction.

Heidi Pezdek, a supporter of the amendment, said, "We were surprised yes, sadly. But we don't know the whole picture."

"They failed to do their duty. I don't know the politics behind it but I think anyone seriously supporting marriage should put that amendment back in," said Tom Eabbing.

Freedom Indiana held an impromptu pep rally afterwards on the 4th floor of the state capital.

"This weekend we have work to do. We have phone banks on Saturday and Sunday and we need to be back here on Monday to wrap this thing up," said a Freedom Indiana member.

"Let's hope cooler heads will prevail.  That there will be a recognition that the future of Indiana does not include and cannot and should not include discrimination in our constitution," said Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson).

More from the Associated Press:

The Senate decision Thursday effectively ends chances that the amendment will be put to voters before 2016. Indiana law requires proposed constitutional amendments to pass consecutive sessions of the Legislature in the same form twice before going to voters.

Sens. Mike Delph of Carmel and Dennis Kruse of Auburn filed separate proposals Thursday to restore the so-called "second sentence" of the ban. The provision would ban civil unions and could bar employers from providing benefits to same-sex couples.

The clause on civil unions was included in the measure legislators first approved it in 2011 and is needed to place the measure on the statewide ballot in November. But the civil unions prohibition caused concern among House members, who removed it from the proposal last month.

Statement from Libertarian Party of Indiana State Chairman Dan Drexler:

"While there is cause to celebrate today's successful delay of discriminatory efforts to define personal relationships in our Constitution, the regrettable reality is that Indiana law still forbids consenting adults the right to define relationships as they choose.

We commend Freedom Indiana for its leading efforts in bringing about this two-year delay.

While many Hoosiers have advocated the importance a statewide referendum on HJR-3, popular vote is not and should not be a tool of the masses to control the few.

The Libertarian Party will continue to work toward our goal of removing government influence over personal relationships entirely."

Statement from Michael Huber, Indy Chamber President and CEO:

"While it is disappointing HJR-3 continued to advance today, we are pleased the Indiana Senate has likely spared the state from a divisive referendum on this distracting issue in 2014. The Indy Chamber will remain steadfast in its efforts to ensure HJR-3 does not continue to shift focus from vital issues like education, workforce development and job growth."

Statement from Megan Robertson of Freedom Indiana:

"What happened today at the Statehouse is a testament to the tens of thousands of Hoosiers who have shared their stories with lawmakers and with the public to show the harm this amendment would do to their families and our state. It's clear that lawmakers listened.
"We continue to oppose the amendment in any form, but make no mistake: This is a huge victory.
"We are grateful to lawmakers for their openness and transparency during this process, and we thank them for conducting the discourse in a civil, respectful manner. We also owe an incredible debt of gratitude to our coalition partners who believed in our mission from the outset and to the Hoosiers who selflessly gave their time, effort and resources to the campaign.
"Today will go down in Indiana history as a win for freedom."