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HJR-3, the marriage amendment proposal, returns for consideration

The proposed state constitutional amendment would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, banning same-sex matrimony.

Posted on Feb. 10, 2014 at 7:53 a.m.

Expect another flurry of news about House Joint Resolution 3, the marriage amendment proposal.

The Indiana Senate's Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee will take the measure up for consideration Monday, Feb. 10, another step in the process as lawmakers decide whether to put the proposal to voters for consideration as a ballot initiative.

Ahead of Monday's expected action, here are a few questions and answers about the measure:

1. What does it do?

HJR-3, just one sentence long, would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It doesn't specifically mention same-sex marriage, but the end result would be a prohibition in the state on such unions.

An earlier two-sentence version of HJR-3 contained phrasing — the so-called second sentence — that would have prohibited civil unions, but House lawmakers removed it, a majority deeming the language too restrictive.

As amended, HJR-3 reads: "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana."

2. What's next in the process?

The House approved the amended version of HJR-3, without the second sentence, Jan. 28 in a 57-40 vote.

Now the Senate rules committee takes it up, after a planned 1:30 p.m. meeting Monday of the full Senate. The body will take testimony from backers and foes, an hour each. Peter Hanscom, deputy campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, which is lobbying to defeat HJR-3, expects a committee vote the same day.

If the committee approves it, the measure goes to the full Senate for consideration, probably later in the week, Hanscom thinks. It would have to pass two rounds of voting in the Senate, called the second and third readings.

3. When would it go to voters?

Senate approval, if it occurs, doesn't end things.

If the body ultimately approves the same measure passed by the House, lawmakers of both chambers would have to approve an identical measure once again in 2015 or 2016, per the constitutional amendment process. If that happens, it would go to voters for final consideration as a ballot initiative in the November 2016 general election.

If put to voters and they were to approve it, the Constitution would be changed to reflect HJR-3.

4. What about the second sentence, can that be put back in place?

Indeed, it could theoretically be put back in place, and therein lies the rub.

Senate President David Long has asked that the rules committee refrain from amending HJR-3, Hanscom said. But presuming committee approval, it remains an open question whether the Senate will try to re-insert the second sentence. "We see that definitely as a real possibility," said Hanscom.

5. And if the second sentence is re-inserted, what then?

If the Senate puts the second sentence back in and approves the longer version, the whole process changes. The Indiana House would have to take the new version up for consideration because it would reflect a change from the version the body passed Jan. 28.

Hanscom says if the House rejected an amended version from the Senate, the measure would die. If the House approved an amended version from the Senate, by contrast, the question would go to voters for final consideration on the Nov. 4 ballot this year.

Sound confusing?

Well, House and Senate lawmakers already approved a parallel measure, House Joint Resolution 6, in 2011, which was identical to the two-sentence measure the House initially took up for consideration in January, before removing the second sentence.

If the House back-tracked and approved the original two-sentence version, that would reflect approval of the measure in two separately elected general assemblies, complying with the constitutional process and allowing the measure to go before voters this year.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack.

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