News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 30, 2013

EDITORIAL: Indiana can do without nasty marriage-ban battle

Legislative leaders should be cautious

The Tribune-Star

---- — The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings last week concerning same-sex marriage reflects the continuing evolution of American attitudes toward the subject. The court found the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional yet punted away the chance to establish further legal direction to a country still largely divided on the topic. Its subsequent ruling on the California same-sex marriage ban allows a lower court ruling striking down the ban to stand and should indirectly allow gay marriage to resume in the state.

The American people have been shifting in their views of same-sex marriage for some time now, and the shift is clearly moving toward more tolerance, even acceptance. It’s satisfying to see the nation’s High Court shifting as well. Denying same-sex couples the legal opportunity to wed is not something with which our government should be involved.

Unfortunately, the court’s actions also allow states to continue to deal with same-sex marriage as they see fit, even if that means banning the practice.

An immediate consequence of the court’s action is that it allows an intense battle over the issue to resume in Indiana.

The state already has a law on the books banning same-sex couples from having the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples. Opponents of same-sex marriage aren’t satisfied with that, and last week’s rulings will embolden them to further seek to entrench their view into Indiana law by placing it in the state constitution.

An attempt to amend Indiana’s constitution has already passed the required first of two consecutive sessions of the Legislature. Lawmakers decided to delay pressing it this year pending the Supreme Court rulings. If they bring it back for the second required vote in the 2014 session and it passes, it will then go to voters in the fall of 2014 for approval or rejection.

In the emotional wake of the court’s rulings, Republican Gov. Mike Pence and socially conservative legislative leaders expressed their desire to press ahead with the marriage-ban amendment next year. We hope their inclination to ignite such an acrimonious and unnecessary political battle will wane as time passes.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Majority Leader David Long should take a deep breath and a long, hard look at this issue before moving forward. Within their own party there is growing concern and opposition to the marriage-ban amendment. Highly respected Republican legislators such as Sen. Luke Kenley of Noblesville and Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany oppose the amendment and warn their leadership and party members that they may well be on the wrong side of history on this issue.

Indeed, recent public opinion polling shows a state almost evenly divided on the issue but support for the amendment clearly declining. Even with Republican super majorities, passage is far from certain. And legal challenges to the amendment if it does pass are virtually assured.

As we have stated before, no one expects Indiana’s elected officials, or even Hoosiers in general, to be leaders in the movement to legalize same-sex marriage. But it is not too much to expect that the state take a more measured approach on the matter and not do something that will end up having to be undone eventually, later if not sooner.

There are more productive ways for Hoosier lawmakers to spend their time in the next legislative session as they take on important issues related to education, job creation and improving infrastructure. Hoisting the flag of a divisive social issue would not be time or energy well spent.