Two weeks from now, on Monday January 7, Indiana's legislature will convene for 30 working days to debate changes to the state's laws. Among those changes will be a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.
Indiana is one of only four states that ban marriage equality by statute. The other 46 have marriage equality (18) or amendments banning it (28). The last state to pass such a ban was North Carolina in May 2012. Even by then there hadn't been any other constitutional bans since the notorious Proposition 8, Arizona, and Florida in 2008. Barring some unexpected developments in Wyoming, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania, it looks like Indiana's attempts to amend its constitution will mark the end of an era for this opprobrious practice.
Indiana has pushed off considering constitutional change because Democrats have always held at least one chamber of the legislature. When the Tea Party wave ushered Indiana Republicans into large majorities in the 2011 session, passing a constitutional amendment was one of the first things they accomplished. However, amendments must be passed twice in separately elected legislatures. They had the opportunity to do so in 2013, but passed on it because of pending cases before the US Supreme Court.
Now Indiana Republicans are finding that the "tables have turned." Because of Evangelical pressure, and a party fetish for passing bans on gay marriage, they rushed straight into a battle they don't want and can't get out of...
Republican legislators wary of the trends for marriage equality are starting to resist, especially because the amendment bans other types of unions even for heterosexual couples. If the Republican leaders decide to restrict the language, they must wait another two years to pass that language, placing the vote on the ballot for 2016, by which time the US Supreme Court will have ruled and a majority of Hoosiers will reject it outright. As it is, Hoosiers reject the current language by 54% according to some polls and as much as 58% according to the NYT article above.“The tables have turned on this issue, and the Republican members are at a loss about what to do about it,” said Representative Scott Pelath, the House minority leader. “They’re quaking in their boots about what will happen if they don’t pass this thing. But they’re fearful about what will happen down the road if they do.”
Indiana Finds It’s Not So Easy to Buck Gay Marriage Trend
In any case, this is the last such constitutional amendment battle we are likely to ever face again, and winning it will cement the legacy of marriage equality, and the doom of efforts to oppose it.
This particular battle is likely to explode with updates in coming weeks. So stay tuned...