Indiana lawmakers have passed legislation to legalise same-gender marriage, clearing the way for the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to consider it.
The legislation is expected to be approved by the Senate on Wednesday and signed by Gov.
Mike Pence on Thursday.
The vote is a major victory for the gay rights movement in Indiana, where Republican lawmakers have previously opposed same-gendered marriage.
Gay rights groups say the measure would pave the way to the eventual legalization of same- sex marriage across the US, and the governor’s signature would pave way for legalising it in all 50 states.
The measure has been opposed by business groups, which have said it could cause damage to the state economy and threaten the health of the people who live there.
The Indiana House and Senate passed the measure last week with support from business groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
But Republican legislators and religious leaders who opposed the bill argued the measure was not a solution to the issue of gay and lesbian marriage and called it an attack on the religious freedoms of people.
A coalition of Christian conservative groups, including Liberty Counsel, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and the Catholic League, argued that the legislation was unconstitutional because it would undermine the right to free exercise of religion, the First Amendment to the US constitution.
“This is a deeply disturbing and misguided bill, one that puts at risk religious freedom in our state,” said Mark Potok, the president of Liberty Counsel.
The American Family Association, a conservative Christian organisation, said the bill was a “license to discriminate” and would hurt Indiana’s economy.
“The American people should be allowed to decide for themselves if marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Wayne Besen, the group’s executive vice president.
“And the answer is no.”
A number of other states have passed laws allowing same- gender marriage in recent years.
In 2016, Florida’s Republican governor signed a bill allowing same sex couples to wed, with support coming from Republican-dominated state legislatures in Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia.
In Washington state, the bill also went into effect in 2016.
The number of same sex marriages has also risen in some states in recent months, including Texas and New Mexico.
A similar bill was also passed in Illinois in 2017.
The US Supreme Court last year struck down a California law banning same- sexual-orientation marriages, ruling it was unconstitutional and a violation of the US Constitution.
The high court said the state could not make a similar argument to Indiana.
Indiana’s Republican majority has already voted to uphold the state constitution’s ban on same sex marriage.