By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - A new House bill seeks to clarify what will be House Joint Resolution 3, or the constitutional marriage amendment. Opponents of the amendment say that the constitutional amendment can't be "clarified" and that the process should start over.

House Bill 1153, filed by Republican State Reps. Eric Turner of Cicero and Jeff Thompson of Lizton attempts to change the controversial second sentence of HJR-6, which passed by vast majorities in 2011.

In HJR-6, the amendment read: “Only marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman will be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

Critics of that amendment that passed in 2011 say it would prohibit any kind of civil unions in the future, while federal tax and military laws and regulations are changing and allowing same-sex couples to get such benefits.

In the revamped legislation, it would "recognize legal status" of Indiana residents in:

1. The extension of employment benefits by private sector employers, political subdivisions of the state, or state educational institutions to any beneficiary designated by an employed individual;

2. The adoption and enforcement of local ordinances granting to any category or class of persons equal opportunities for education, employment, access to public conveniences, access to accommodations, or acquisition of property or to rent property; an individual from entering into or enforcing terms of a power of attorney, a will, a trust, or another similar lawful agreement or instrument (regardless of name) established for the benefit of another person;

3. An individual from giving or enforcing a lawful consent or other instrument (regardless of name) that grants powers, rights, or privileges to, imposes obligations on, or provides for the use by or transfer of property to another person;

4. The protections provided under Indiana's domestic violence laws or who may qualify for protection from domestic violence; o

5. Or action by the General Assembly to protect or provide for the property, health, or safety of unmarried persons by appropriate legislation."

Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute said that the changes come not as a concern, but "Just responding to those concerns."

In a statement, Smith said, "We applaud the introduction of HJR 3 and its companion bill, HB 1153, before the Indiana General Assembly," said Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute. "Both the proposed resolution and the companion bill make a valuable contribution to promoting a marriage culture in Indiana. And as we all know, children benefit the most from a culture of marriage. Kids need both a mom and a dad. HB 1153 is especially important in underscoring what legislators, legal scholars and pro-family organizations alike have been stressing for the past decade.  This debate is about letting the people decide what role marriage should play in public life."

Smith added, "Marriage has become a controversial topic, and so we need to allow the voters to decide its rightful place in public life.  But nothing that has been proposed is designed to be harmful, disrespectful or denigrate any Hoosier or deny any private entity the option of setting its HR policies. HB 1153 also confirms that our Courts continue to be free to administer justice and adjudicate disputes between and among Hoosiers who seek to order their lives according to their personal choices and preferences."

Megan Robertson, who heads the Freedom Indiana group opposed the amendment, reacted by saying, "Supporters of the amendment seem to finally understand that the language they want to permanently insert into our state's founding document is deeply flawed. Unfortunately, instead of addressing the amendment's defects through proper channels, they're trying to sidestep and obfuscate the process by introducing a bill they think explains away the potential harm to Hoosier families. The bill is as troublesome as the amendment itself, which was renumbered to further confuse Hoosiers.
 
Robertson added, "In its official printed form, the amendment is 12 lines. The companion bill is 73 lines. Explaining the amendment shouldn't take six times as many words as the amendment itself."
 
She added, "The solution here is as simple as the math: either scrap the current language and start over, or better yet, admit that our Constitution is not the proper place to have this debate."

Robertson told Howey Politics that any change in the language should restart the process, meaning it would have to pass this session and in 2015 or 2016 to appear on the ballot in those years. "It's hard to change the constitution by design," she said. "They are trying to clarify and the legislature doesn't get to clarify a constitutional amendment."

Multiple sources tell HPI that Gov. Mike Pence does not want to run for reelection in 2016 with the marriage amendment on the ballot.

House Speaker Brian Bosma told the Indianapolis Star that he is studying the new legislation.

The new legislation comes as Eric Miller's Advance America group began running TV ads in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne media markets calling for the legislature to allow a vote. Sources tell HPI that it is a small $36,000 buy aimed at the House Public Policy Committee.