Bosma, Long postpone marriage amendment discussion, say they’ll wait for SCOTUS decision
Saturday, 09 February 2013 23:36
INDIANAPOLIS – Legislative leaders announced Thursday that they will wait until 2014 to discuss amending the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and restrict civil unions.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said their caucuses decided to postpone action on the proposal because the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case involving a state ban.
“I’ve said throughout this session that given the fact the Supreme Court has a very similar measure before it right now out of California that we could find ourselves in the very inadvisable situation of having a matter on the ballot in 2014 that has been ruled unconstitutional,” Bosma said.
But both leaders said they’re confident the amendment will pass their chambers when presented in 2014, although it’s unclear whether public opinion remains on their side.
The GOP-controlled General Assembly approved the measure easily in 2011. But to amend the state constitution, the proposal must pass two separately-elected legislatures. That means lawmakers must pass it this year or next for it to appear on the 2014 election ballot for possible ratification by voters.
Opponents of the bill said Thursday they are confident the majority of Hoosiers don’t want the language – which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman – added to the constitution.
A poll late last year by WISH-TV and the Bowen Institute at Ball State University showed that 45 percent of respondents supported same-sex marriage while 45 percent of people opposed it. Those in support of same-sex marriage were typically younger and more educated.
Rick Sutton, executive director of Indiana Equality, said the organization is happy lawmakers are delaying action on the amendment.
“A delay is by no means a win, but we believe we are headed in a better direction, and Indiana is stronger when we all move forward together,” he said.
He said altering the constitution would result in uncertain long-term consequences.
The amendment has two parts. The first defines marriage. The second prohibits any “legal status” that is “substantially similar” to marriage.
Sutton said the second part of the amendment could lead to legal issues.
“A recent study by students at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law found a significant number of rights and obligations related to marriage that could be permanently denied under the proposed amendment,” he said. “We will continue to look into these issues and monitor the U.S. Supreme Court cases in the coming months.”
Marie Siroky, who represents Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination of Indianapolis, said she and her wife, CJ, married in Iowa about 23 years ago, but their marriage is not recognized in Indiana.
“There’s 100 and some relationship law and rights that are attached to marriage,” she said. “These are civil rights that are attached to marriage and why are they denied us, this is in just or unjust depending on which way you look at it.”
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said his caucus is also happy Republicans have decided not to push on with the legislation.
He said the news is well received because the General Assembly needs to focus on creating jobs for the middle class.
“I want to congratulate Sen. Long and Speaker Bosma for making a wise decision,” Pelath said. “We all know the Supreme Court is going to rule, we also know that there is new prevailing consensuses being developed in the public.”
Pelath said he personally opposes the amendment because part of it is “mean.” He said the second part of the amendment brings many legal questions.
Bosma acknowledged he’s also concerned with parts of the amendment – although he still supports it.
“I may not agree with every word of it,” Bosma said. “If I were sitting down to draft it on a fresh piece of paper, I might draft it a little differently.”
He said the second clause, which bans civil unions and anything that resembles marriage between same-sex couples, is prompting lots of discussion.
The amendment’s co-author, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he supports the leaders’ decision to hold it.
“Like them, I believe it is prudent to wait and to make sure the amendment will be in line with any Supreme Court ruling regarding California’s marriage amendment,” Kruse said. “I will abide by the decision of our caucus and support hearing it in the next year.”
Writer Samm Quinn is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.