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December 23, 2012

EDITORIAL: State same-sex marriage ban should be rejected

Don’t waste time, let difficult issue evolve

TERRE HAUTE — The American people have been shifting in their views of same-sex marriage for some time now, and the evolution of public opinion is clearly moving toward more tolerance, even acceptance. The trend is heartening. Denying same-sex couples the legal opportunity to wed is not something with which our government should be involved.

Involved, however, it is. Currently, there is a federal Defense of Marriage of Act, although the Obama administration has made it clear it views the law as unconstitutional.

What’s more, Indiana has its own ban on same-sex marriage, and there is an effort to get the prohibition placed into the state’s constitution. An attempt to amend Indiana’s constitution has already passed the required first of two consecutive sessions of the Legislature. If it passes again either in the 2013 or 2014 sessions, it will then go to voters in the fall of 2014 for approval or rejection.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court announced recently that it will hear matters related to same-sex marriage this year, with a ruling coming as soon as this summer. Depending on the court’s decision — which will be close, probably 5-4, either way — the future of government involvement in same-sex marriage could be set.

Because of the uncertainty that hangs over the Supreme Court cases, the Indiana General Assembly’s best approach in 2013 is to leave it alone. There is simply no reason to risk the political acrimony, or to waste time and resources, fighting over an issue that could be rendered moot by the high court in a few months.

Setting this issue aside will take little more than a small dose of common sense. Fortunately, there are those in the legislature’s super majority of Republicans stepping up to provide the type of leadership needed to deal appropriately with the matter.

State Sen. Luke Kenley, a proponent of putting the same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution the last time it came up in 2011, will oppose it if it comes up this time. He still describes himself as a supporter of traditional marriage, but he now doesn’t believe placing such a ban in the constitution is a good idea. The powerful chair of the Senate’s appropriations committee acknowledges public opinion is “rapidly evolving” in favor of same-sex marriage.

“I really value the institution of heterosexual marriage,” Kenley said recently. “But I do not think that putting a statement in the constitution which runs down or is bigoted toward people who have a different kind of loving relationship, that I may not understand, is going to be productive.”

Kenley may still not be part of the majority, but his shift is important. He is clearly a leader of stature and influence. That he would show the type of political courage necessary to bring about major changes of attitude on such an emotional topic will certainly give others pause and perhaps bring them to reconsider their own long-held positions.

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.

If the proposed constitutional ban is proposed in this next legislative session, we urge the Wabash Valley’s delegation to adopt the common-sense approach. Vote no on the constitutional ban and allow the issue to continue its evolution.

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