An Indiana House committee passed an amendment Monday to the state's constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions.
The members of the state's House Judiciary Committee approved the resolution by an 8-4 margin. The vote was split along party lines, but House Republicans expect the ban to receive bipartisan support once it reaches the floor.
The proposed constitutional amendment on marriage is co-sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. David Cheatham from the 69th district in southeast Indiana.
Rep. Cheatham shared his support for the gay marriage ban on public radio station WBEZ 91.5.
"My view on that is this: We have laws that deal with situations. We have a constitution that deals with foundation issues; fundamental issues. This is a foundation, fundamental issue. Marriage between one man and one woman," he asserted.
Committee approval is but a small step in a long process necessary to amend the state constitution's definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Lawmakers must be able to pass the proposed amendment through both the state House and Senate two consecutive years in order to gain a voter referendum.
Once residents vote to ban gay marriage, the amendment is adopted.
Previous efforts to complete the process have been close but unsuccessful. In 2005, Republicans passed the ban through the state House and Senate by a vote of 76-23. However, the ban failed in the House when Democrats took control in 2006. All together, it has passed the Senate four times: 2004 (42-7), 2005 (42-8), 2007 (39-10), and 2008 (39-9).
Pro-family lawmakers are trying again to take advantage of the Republican-controlled House to pass a gay marriage ban through the House and Senate again this year. If lawmakers are successful this year, it will likely be 2014 before a ban can be approved by voters.
Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said the issue has be subjected to "political football." However, he believes there is a good chance the gay marriage ban can finally be passed this year. The AFA of Indiana and other pro-family groups successfully lobbied the ban at yesterday's hearing. The AFA of Indiana has also been making radio appearances and sending email alerts to encourage the ban along this year.
Clark says the key to passing the gay marriage ban in 2013-2014 is keeping the Republican majority in the state House.
Indiana is one of seven states trying to pass a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Others states working on a gay marriage ban include Minnesota, Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Iowa's proposed marriage amendment has passed the state House. However, it failed to pass the state Senate in a rush vote.