News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 10, 2013

EDITORIAL: Shifting view on marriage

Timing aside, history will validate Donnelly’s switch

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — One could argue, as many have, that Sen. Joe Donnelly did the right thing last week when he dropped his support of government-sanctioned opposition to same-sex marriage. It wasn’t a radical move, considering most Democrats have now made the switch.

On a national level, Donnelly is actually a late-comer to the evolving public shift in attitude toward same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to weigh in on the matter this summer, although it’s far from certain how the ruling will go.

In Indiana, however, Donnelly’s pronouncement is less ho-hum. Senior Sen. Dan Coats remains a solid supporter of the government’s current definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Gov. Mike Pence, a social conservative of the highest order, is aligned with Coats. While there are Republicans who, like Donnelly, have changed their position, opposition to same-sex marriage remains primarily a GOP agenda item.

Today, there is a law on the books that bans same-sex marriage in Indiana, and the GOP-dominated legislature has already passed its support for a constitutional amendment doing the same. If it passes the General Assembly for the second time by the end of next year’s session, the question will be placed on the 2014 general election ballot for voters to decide.

Republican legislative leadership wisely postponed taking that second vote this year until the Supreme Court issues its opinion.

Sentiment toward same-sex marriage is definitely changing, even in Indiana. Donnelly’s shift will allow more political leaders to change their public positions as well.

Critics will claim that Donnelly’s switch was done for political purposes, and that he could have stated that position during last fall’s senatorial campaign. That would have been a more honest approach, they say. Perhaps that’s true. It surely would have taken more political courage last year than this year.

But the fact remains that Donnelly has publicly changed his position, and that’s a good thing. Denying same-sex couples the same marital rights afforded to others is a discriminatory position. Indiana’s junior senator has now acknowledged that.

Hoosiers should be proud of his decision. He is now on the right side of history.