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Star survey: Senate is cool to restoring civil union clause in HJR-3

A survey done by the IndyStar.com asked each state senator if he or she would re-add the ban on civil-unions to HJR-3. The ban on civil unions was removed from the proposed constitutional amendment by the House last month.


Posted on Feb. 13, 2014 at 1:19 p.m.

An effort to restore the ban on civil unions to the constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage appears to have little to no chance of succeeding in the Indiana Senate.

The Senate’s expected action today on House Joint Resolution 3 likely will determine whether the controversial proposal goes to the public for a vote in November or is delayed until at least 2016.

The Senate may be in the same position as the House was three weeks ago: Eliminate the hotly debated second sentence so the amendment will pass.

Survey asks state senators how they will vote on HJR-3

An Indianapolis Star survey of the 50-member body this week found 16 said they will oppose adding back the second sentence and 10 — mostly Republicans — are undecided. Only six senators said they will vote to restore the sentence, which opponents think also would prohibit domestic partner benefits.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long and 15 other senators declined to comment on the second sentence or how they will vote on the amendment — with or without the second sentence. Two senators are ill and were not surveyed. They are not expected to vote.

A Republican senator, who asked not to be identified, said Wednesday an informal tally of GOP lawmakers showed a shortfall of six to eight votes to restore the second sentence.

If the second sentence is not restored, the measure cannot go to voters in November. That’s because the 2011 General Assembly approved it with the sentence. Under Indiana law, a constitutional amendment must pass two separately elected legislatures in the same form before going to voters.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, Senate sponsor of HJR-3, said Tuesday he or another Republican senator will introduce a measure to add the second sentence. That is likely to happen today, when the measure is scheduled for a second reading — a time when lawmakers can propose changes.

In the House, removing the civil union ban made the amendment palatable for more Republican members to vote yes. It passed by a 57-40 vote.

Opponents of the amendment say keeping the civil union ban out of the resolution could also clear a path in the Senate, which has 37 Republicans and 13 Democrats. In 2011, the vote was 40-10, with no Republican dissenters.

“I think there are a lot of people who think the second sentence goes too far. It’s just radically flawed and discriminatory in my opinion” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. “I’d be surprised if they (Republicans) had the votes to restore it.”

Megan Robertson, campaign director of Freedom Indiana, a coalition opposing HJR-3, also thinks many senators have problems with the second sentence.

“I think there’s a good chance the second sentence will not be added back,” she said. “Certainly, that’s what we hope they’ll do. But we prefer the whole thing go away.”

But that’s likely a long way from happening.

Amendment supporters, including Eric Miller, founder and CEO of Advance America, a conservative, pro-family group, wants to avoid a further delay in bringing the vote to the public.

“Twelve years is long enough for the issue to be debated in the legislature,” said Miller. “Now that we’re this close, the legislature needs to put the second sentence back in and let the people vote. It’s time to trust the people of Indiana with a vote to define marriage between one man and one woman.”

He acknowledged Thursday’s vote to restore the second sentence would be close, and contends erroneous information has been spread about the second sentence, including that it would prohibit domestic partner benefits.

Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, is among those who voted for the amendment in 2011 and are now undecided about the second sentence, as well as the entire amendment.

“I’m still torn in all different directions,” Boots said. “I didn’t analyze it as well as I should have (in 2011).” But he added he does believe in traditional marriage.

In 2011, Sen. Frank Mrvan, Hammond, was only one of two Democrats who voted for the amendment. Now, he’s not so sure.

“I’m having a hard time with this. I resent having to make a decision on who someone can and can’t love,” he said. I don’t like the second sentence at all. It’s going to hurt a lot of people, not just gays. I can go either way on the amendment.”

Like many other senators, Sen. Allen Paul, R-Richmond, said he’s not going to commit until he actually votes. But he said he’s truly undecided. “I’m still thinking about this.”

Many senators, who have supported the amendment previously, said they know how they will vote on the second sentence and the amendment, but didn’t want to reveal their intentions publicly.

Still, support for the gay marriage ban has dwindled some since 2011.

Regardless of the second sentence’s presence, 13 senators said they would vote against the amendment, compared to 10 in 2011. Those opposing the amendment now include two Republicans: Ron Alting, Lafayette, and Peter Miller, Avon.

Only eight senators told The Star they would vote for the amendment with the second sentence, and seven said they’d vote for it without that sentence.

With or without the second sentence, 11 lawmakers said they were undecided, an eye-opening figure given all but one of them are Republicans.

Overall, more than half of the senators surveyed said they are undecided or declined to comment.

The final vote in the Senate could come as early as Monday.

Star reporter Stephanie Wang contributed to this story. Call Star reporter Barb Berggoetz at (317) 444-6294. Follow her on Twitter @barbberg.

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©2014 The Indianapolis Star

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