The Indiana Senate voted 40-10 in favor of a measure that would allow Hoosiers to vote on an amendment to prohibit gay and lesbian couples from marrying or having any legal status "substantially similar" to marriage.
A separately elected General Assembly would have to approve the same resolution again in 2013 or 2014 for voters to be able to weigh in on the issue in the 2014 general election.
Indiana has had a law barring same-sex marriage since 1986. Proponents of a constitutional ban say it's necessary to guard against the possibility a court decision would overturn the existing law.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, an Auburn Republican who sponsored H.J.R. 6 in the Senate, and other supporters of the resolution say they want to protect marriage and the family as the basic unit of society. He said 30 other states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, and voters in those states have approved the amendments by an average of 68 percent.
Opponents of H.J.R. 6 said they're concerned it will make Indiana appear unwelcoming and hurt companies' efforts to attract talented workers to the state. Several large employers, including Cummins Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co., testified against the resolution in committee hearings.
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, said she doesn't feel her marriage is threatened by anyone else's relationship. She added that the legislature should promote families "as they really exist in today's society."
Among senators from north-central Indiana, only Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, and John Broden, D-South Bend, voted against H.J.R. 6 on Tuesday.
Arnold noted that there are 25 proposals this year in the General Assembly to change the state constitution. He added that it's unnecessary to do so in this case where Indiana already has a law defining marriage.
"This makes no sense to me, to continually fool with the Indiana state constitution," he said. "The statute is very clear; the statute speaks to the issue directly: It states that marriage is between one man and one woman."
Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso; Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen; Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, and Joe Zakas, R-Granger, voted for the resolution.
"Sometimes courts have interpreted our laws in a way that accords with their own philosophies, so some of us thought the statute alone may not be enough," Zakas said. "Ultimately, it becomes a decision that people themselves will make through the constitutional amendment process. It seemed like getting that out to the voters would make some sense."
Staff writer Kevin Allen: