House Joint Resolution 3, the bill that as originally written would amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, continues to divide Hoosiers and monopolize time at the Statehouse.
Unfortunately, Gov. Mike Pence helped ensure that will continue with comments he recently made to an Indianapolis television station.
The Indiana House of Representatives appeared to tamp down the fire of the debate when it voted last month in favor of an amended bill that deleted a sentence that stated: “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”
Thus, the House version no longer pertains to civil unions and alleviated the fears of opponents that the amendment also would threaten domestic partner benefits that are offered now in recognition of the commitment couples have made to each other.
The House change, if approved by the Senate as well, would restart the clock on amending the constitution and put off a potential vote on the matter until 2016.
But later, the governor said he would favor the amendment as originally written. That would give the people of Indiana the ability to vote on the same-sex marriage question in November 2014. He was clear to say he realizes the decision is up to the General Assembly, and not him, but equally clear he wanted this issue to move forward quickly. He implied voting on the issue would settle it once and for all.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
The House didn’t go far enough. If legislators want to settle this issue they should drop the idea of amending the Constitution for this purpose all together. But the action the House took was a reasonable step that acknowledges the growing legitimacy and acceptance of same-sex partnerships.
A state law already defines marriage as between one man and one woman. This current batch of lawmakers should not be trying to build in a constitutional amendment to solidify what’s in place to make it harder for a future legislature to change the law.
This persistence in wanting a constitutional amendment is based on fear that a majority of Hoosiers might soon want to do just that — change the law. Poll after poll shows more acceptance of same-sex marriage, with a generation of 18-to-34-year-olds overwhelmingly favoring giving the same rights to marry that heterosexuals enjoy to gay men and lesbians.
Even delaying a public vote on the matter is a threat to the ideology of the right, because the chances of even conservative Indiana rejecting the amendment will be greater in two years than they are now.
And as we’ve noted before, legislators abandon representative democracy with their intent to let the voters decide to block some from having a particular right through a constitutional amendment. These elected leaders should lead. They shouldn’t send Hoosier voters to the polls hoping they’ll say the Indiana Constitution should favor the majority and not treat all people equally.
Pence is wrong on this issue. Senators should side with their colleagues in the House, at least, and mitigate the damage that could be caused by HJR-3, as well as delay a potential ballot question and all of the divisive campaigning that will accompany such a question.
Distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.