[JURIST] The Indiana House of Representatives [official website] on Tuesday approved a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In a 57-40 vote [Reuters report], the Indiana House moved the joint resolution, which had been on the rolls since 2004, forward into the Senate chambers. However, because the current legislature removed language banning civil unions from the original proposal, the amendment will be ineligible for a referendum vote during the state’s election in November unless it is restored by the state senate. Tuesday’s approval leaves the door open for a referendum vote in the 2016 election cycle. Under Indiana’s constitutional amendment process [AP report], the same measure must be approved by two consecutive two-year sessions of the General Assembly and then be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters. Supporters of the proposal claim that having a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in addition to state statute would increase the ban’s chances of surviving a court challenge.
The heated debate over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing issues currently facing the American legal community, with legal challenges before numerous state and federal courts. Last week Virginia Attorney Genera Mark Herring [official profile] announced [JURIST report] that his office will no longer defend legal challenges to the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage. Days earlier six same-sex couples and the Equality Florida Institute [advocacy website] filed [JURIST report] a lawsuit in a Florida state court seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage marriage. Earlier this month US Attorney General Eric Holder announced [JURIST report] that the federal government will recognize the marriages that took place while same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in the state of Utah. In November Illinois became the fifteenth US state to legalize [JURIST report] same-sex marriage. Earlier in November, a federal judge in Ohio ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages on Ohio death certificates could continue. Also in November a Colorado same-sex couple filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking a marriage license. Earlier that week a Missouri court denied [JURIST report] a same-sex partner survivor benefits. In October JURIST Guest Columnist Theodore Seto argued the fallout from the US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] decision is only beginning to show the role state governments will have [JURIST op-ed] in state constitutional modification, in addition to the possibility that a same-sex marriage case will reach the US Supreme Court in the future. In September a Kentucky judge issued a ruling in the opposite direction, holding that partners in a same-sex couple must testify against one another [JURIST report] because same-sex partners are not protected by the husband-wife privilege under state law.