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October 31, 2013

EDITORIAL: Turning away from gay-marriage ban

Most Hoosiers agree amendment is wrong

TERRE HAUTE — A  few weeks ago, Indiana legislators were asked by a conservative group that supports placing a same-sex marriage ban in the state’s constitution to declare their positions on the matter.

It was a political tactic intended to force as many legislators as possible into a position well before the actual debate begins in the Indiana General Assembly. Make no mistake about it, the request to declare a position carried an obvious threat. If a legislator’s position did not match the group’s, he or she could be targeted with a variety of attack ads down the road. Those who refuse to answer the question would of course be subject to a different kind of pressure.

We hope legislators had the courage not to take the bait.

Regardless of how lawmakers feel about the issue at the moment, the wise and prudent response is to resist being coerced into a declaration of position. Instead, they should pause to consider the results of a poll released recently that shows a sizable majority of Hoosiers from all political persuasions are opposed to a constitutional ban.

The poll was commissioned by Freedom Indiana, a bipartisan group opposing the ban. But it was conducted by a respected polling firm that once worked for Hoosier Republicans. The results, therefore, should be considered unbiased.

The bottom line is that public opinion is swinging away from a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. People’s attitudes are changing as they begin to see the issue in its proper light.

In addition to the clear movement of public opinion away from a discriminatory ban, influential groups are beginning to line up in opposition to the amendment. The latest is the Indy Chamber of Commerce. Last week, the Chamber voted to oppose the ban on grounds that it’s bad for business.

Being bad for business is one way of looking at it, but we see the issue as much broader than that. It’s a civil rights issue. Placing a discriminatory ban on marriage aimed at those who are doing nothing illegal is simply wrong.

The attempt to amend Indiana’s constitution has already passed the required first of two consecutive sessions of the Legislature. Early this year, lawmakers decided to delay pressing it this year pending last summer’s Supreme Court rulings, which found the federal ban unconstitutional but left it up to states to resolve the matter on their own.

If lawmakers bring Indiana’s proposed same-sex marriage ban amendment 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.

But the best approach for the General Assembly when it convenes in January is to sidestep the issue and let it die. There are more productive ways for Hoosier lawmakers to spend their time in the next session as they take on important issues related to education, job creation and improving infrastructure.

Hoisting the flag of a divisive social issue such as banning same-sex marriages with a constitutional amendment would not be time or energy well spent. Most Hoosiers know this. Legislators should follow their lead.

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