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General Assembly

Gay marriage decision on hold till 2014

– State lawmakers will not vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage this year, GOP legislative leaders announced Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma said it makes sense to see what the U.S. Supreme Court rules this summer on several pending cases before advancing the amendment in Indiana.

“We think it’s prudent to wait. We have 2014 to vote on it,” said Long of Fort Wayne. “And if the Supreme Court gives the states a clean bill of health … then we will be able to move forward without any questions about the constitutionality of this provision.”

The amendment first passed in 2011, but lawmakers must pass it a second time to send the matter to the public.

Waiting until the 2014 legislative session would not delay passage of the amendment because a statewide vote could not be held until the November 2014 election.

Indiana state law already limits marriage to one man and one woman. But supporters want the law inserted into the constitution so judges can’t later overturn it. State courts have already upheld the law once.

The proposed amendment reads, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall 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.”

The second sentence would ban future legislators from enacting civil unions in the future, and might affect a host of other laws.

Public sentiment has shifted dramatically since Republicans started the process – then claiming it was the most critical issue on the table.

A recent statewide poll by Ball State University showed Hoosiers are evenly split on legalizing gay marriage, and 38 percent support the constitutional ban.

Bosma dismissed the poll because it surveyed Hoosiers – not Hoosier voters. He said he has seen numerous other politically balanced polls that show support for the amendment.

He also said his members were concerned that if the U.S. Supreme Court deemed state efforts on the matter unconstitutional then the state would be stuck with an unconstitutional question on the ballot with no way to remove it.

Bosma believes when the amendment moves forward, the General Assembly will pass the amendment and so will Hoosiers.

As for whether the legislature might consider changing the problematic second sentence, Long said, “We can’t say what will happen in the future.”

The nonprofit group Indiana Equality Action immediately thanked legislators for putting the brakes on the amendment.

The organization’s mission is to fight discrimination against Hoosiers regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We continue to believe the spirit of this amendment runs counter to our shared Hoosier values of kindness and equality. We also believe that the breadth and vagueness of the second sentence of the proposed amendment creates a host of unintended legal issues,” Executive Director Rick Sutton said.

“Today, though, we celebrate the evolution of this debate and the open, honest dialogue we have had with lawmakers about the amendment’s effect on our state, our economy and our future. A delay is by no means a win, but we believe we are headed in a better direction, and Indiana is stronger when we all move forward together.”

Both Long and Bosma said a few members of their respective caucuses didn’t agree with, but understood, the decision.

“Like them, I believe it is prudent to wait and to make sure the amendment will be in line with any Supreme Court ruling regarding California’s marriage amendment,” said Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, who has written the resolution in that chamber.

“I will abide by the decision of our caucus and support hearing it in the next year,” Kruse added.