Bill To Amend Indiana Constitution To Ban Marriage Equality Dies–Probably Forever

Freedom IndianaRepublicans in Indiana have seen the future of marriage equality and really want to head it off. Unfortunately for them–and good for us–they have just lost what is probably their last chance to throw up a final roadblock to delay the inevitable.

In a parliamentary maneuver that spared legislators from going on record, the state Senate stripped language from a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned civil unions as well as same-sex marriages. The move effectively starts the clock over on the proposed amendment, meaning it won’t be able to go before voters before 2016. By then, the matter may already by settled.

“In reality, I think the issue is going to be before the United States Supreme Court — as I’ve said before — and it’s either going to be a state’s rights issue and each state decides for itself or it’s going to be decided by the Supreme Court that it’s a violation of the 14th Amendment,” Senate President Pro Tem David Long said. “One way or another they’re going to have the final say in this because the U.S. Constitution trumps a state constitution.”

Indiana already has a marriage ban, but supporters of the measure wanted to make it even harder for marriage equality by enshrining the ban in the state constitution. Fortunately, the process for amending the constitution is more tempered than legislators, requiring the same measure to pass in two separate legislative sessions before being put to voters. The problem is that in the course of two years, one of the two sentences in the measure–banning recognition of civil unions–became so odious that support for the bill plummeted. By eliminating that sentence, the legislature is back to square one.

Republicans seem to know from the beginning that this was their last shot. Gov. Mike Pence made passage of the bill a priority in his State of the Union address. When the bill seemed to be stalled in a committee, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma moved it to another committee where it could pass. 

The problem opponents of marriage face is that rising support for marriage equality among voters pretty much dooms their chances in the future. Every year that passes sees an increase in support; by 2016, the state will likely be evenly divided on the issue. Big business has already lined up against the marriage ban. Moreover, 2016 is a presidential election year, which means younger votes will turn out in larger numbers than they would have this year.

“Six months ago, if you’d said lawmakers would refuse to put this issue on the ballot in 2014 by stripping out the deeply flawed second sentence, I’d have said there’s no way,” said Megan Robertson, Freedom Indiana campaign manager. Two years from now, the odds are people will look back and wonder how the bill ever got so close in the first place.