INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) -- The Indiana State House of Representatives has approved a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The move comes just weeks after Illinois approved civil unions with the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn.
The Republican-controlled House voted 70-26 on Tuesday to advance the proposal, which must clear two separate Legislatures to get on the ballot for a public vote.
Indiana state law already bans same-sex marriage, but supporters of the amendment say it would provide an additional layer of protection for traditional marriage.
But gay rights activists are furious. In a news release, Indiana Equality Action president Rick Sutton said the amendment is not only an endorsement of discrimination, but also a distraction.
We are greatly disappointed that some members of the General Assembly have decided to endorse an amendment that would forever write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution," Sutton said in the release. "Indiana is facing a the effects of a crippling recession, high unemployment, diminishing job prospects, a significant budget deficit and serious threats to Indiana's public education system and social services programs. A discriminatory constitutional amendment appears to be nothing more than a highly divisive political ploy, distracting Indiana from focusing on our state's real problems."
Same-sex marriage is legal in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.
California also began permitting same-sex marriage after a state Supreme Court decision in June 2008, but that decision was reversed when voters approved Proposition 8 five months later.
Proposition 8 was overturned in Federal Court on Aug. 4 of last year, but it remains in effect indefinitely pending appeal.
Same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment in several states. Both same-sex marriage and civil unions are forbidden by the constitution in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Same-sex marriage is banned by statute in Illinois, but a bill allowing for civil unions was signed into law by Gov. Quinn on Jan. 31, after being approved by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly in December.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.