Indiana Republican legislative leaders showed wise judgment last week when they announced they would not try to advance a measure this session that could ultimately lead to the state’s constitution being amended to include a same-sex marriage ban.
House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long said they will delay action that could have placed the proposed ban on the 2014 general election ballot. That will give lawmakers time to find out how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on cases involving other bans on the books — a California same-sex marriage ban and the federal ban contained in the Defense of Marriage Act.
The General Assembly will get another chance to move forward on the amendment and referendum in next year’s short session. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling this summer, so the legal landscape should be clearer by the time the 2014 session convenes in Indianapolis.
Bosma, one of the true voices of reason in the statehouse, said during a press conference that “prudence dictates that we wait.” By not delaying action, he said, “we could find ourselves in the very inadvisable situation of having a matter on the ballot in 2014 that has been ruled unconstitutional and there is no means of removing it from the ballot.”
Underlying the delay is the indisputable fact that a slim majority of Hoosiers opposes a constitutional ban. Even some who are personally opposed to same-sex marriage say they do not favor placing the ban in the state’s constitution.
To be sure, the debate is not over. Nor will the issue go away. There are still conservative forces that will keep trying to legislate against same-sex marriage. And having the issue front and center in 2014, an election year, will produce a heavy dose of political theatrics.
Still, it’s better than the alternative. Indiana won’t find itself in the awkward and ridiculous legal position of having a referendum on its statewide election ballot next year that has already been ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010, too many social issues have emerged to draw unwanted and negative attention to this state. Thanks to Bosma and Long, a same-sex marriage amendment won’t add to the problem. At least for now.