Evansville Courier & Press
It’s not on the ballot, but same-sex marriage — specifically, whether Indiana will write a strict ban into its constitution — is an important issue in this year’s election.
Amending the state’s constitution involves a drawn-out three-step process, and it takes long enough that sometimes Hoosier voters lose track of exactly where that process stands.
A quick refresher: In 2011, the legislature approved a ban on same-sex marriage, as well as on civil unions or any other legal recognition of any relationship that exists between anyone other than one man and one woman.
That was step one.
Step two involves a separately elected legislature approving the exact same ban — something that looks likely to happen next year.
If it does happen, the final step would be a statewide referendum that would be held in the November 2014 election.
The clock is ticking.
Those who oppose the ban have few supporters in the Indiana House, where it passed on a bipartisan 70-26 vote in 2011, and even fewer friends in the state Senate, where it was approved on a 40-10 vote.
The Senate is a given, and has been for a decade, with each election being followed by a new vote there to
approve a same-sex marriage ban.
Before the 2010 election, though, slight Democratic majorities in the House had blocked the issue from coming up for a vote. But after the redistricting process, Democrats no longer have a chance of capturing a majority there, either.
That means it will be up to Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to decide whether to schedule a vote during the legislative session that starts in January.
“I wouldn’t be shocked in the least,” he said recently when asked whether the House would vote on the ban.
“It’s not on my agenda so I have no scheduled plans for it, but I’m confident it’ll be introduced. It’ll be treated like every other bill. You won’t see the committee chair running in and out of my office with instructions on how to handle it, he said. “It’ll happen, I’m sure, because I’m sure it’ll be introduced.”
Indiana’s governor has a bully pulpit, but no official role to play in the constitutional amendment process.
But, for what it’s worth, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pence and Democratic former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg both say they support a same-sex marriage ban. Only Libertarian Rupert Boneham opposes the ban.
Since opponents of the ban are unlikely to persuade Bosma to block the measure from receiving a vote and are even less likely to have a friend in the governor’s office, their efforts would probably be best spent courting an alternative ally: business.
Columbus-based engine maker Cummins Inc., Indianapolis pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., Indianapolis utility Citizens Energy and others have already staked out their opposition to a ban.
Their argument is that they want to attract the top talent possible, and excluding a segment of the population with such a ban might make that job harder — especially because it is so restrictive that it affords same-sex couples no path to have their relationships legally recognized in Indiana.
Hoosiers are unlikely to see the business community pump the kind of money into this issue that the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and others did to get a set of lawmakers elected in 2010 that approved education reforms, a right-to-work law and more.
Those businesses might, however, help gay rights advocates in the only place they stand a chance of winning this battle: the court of public opinion, ahead of a 2014 vote.
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