The battle over same-sex marriage is far from over in Indiana, but the state can now take a deep breath and ponder how it may want to proceed.
On Monday, the Indiana Senate adopted HJR-3, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and proposed to send it to voters as a constitutional amendment. But because the wording of the amendment was changed from a previously adopted version to delete a second sentence that would have outlawed civil unions and domestic partnerships, the amendment process must now start over.
Indiana law stipulates state constitutional amendments go to the voters only after passing two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly. A session lasts two years, which means the earliest the same-sex marriage amendment could be on the ballot is 2016.
It would have been far preferable for the amendment to have been defeated in the legislature this year, thereby ending this misguided effort to enshrine discrimination in our state’s most revered legal document.
But democracy can be a messy business, and victories are sometimes incomplete. Yet they are victories nonetheless.
Political opinion is following public opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage, which is why Indiana’s conservative legislature suddenly found itself roiled in controversy over an issue that just a few years earlier barely created a stir.
But as Indiana now relaxes, having been spared an ugly and emotional battle this fall, it is time to reflect on the fact that the status of marriage equality in this state has really not changed. By statute, same-sex marriage remains banned. We officially, through law, deny a sub-set of people the same rights given to everyone else.
While it is indeed a victory that this discriminatory provision cannot be inserted into our constitution later this year, it must be tempered by the reality that this law remains in place.
Reversing Indiana’s statutory same-sex marriage ban won’t happen any time soon. But we trust it will happen.
And when it does, history will record that the first steps toward reversing this injustice were taken in the winter of 2014. Progress may be slow. But it is progress just the same.