Last week’s Indiana Senate action removing the proposed ban on same-sex marriage from the fall ballot was a clear victory for opponents of the ban.
Adoption by the Senate of the exact wording of the resolution that had already passed the House effectively pushes the matter back to the 2016 general election at the earliest.
That’s because that wording is different than last year’s resolution. The House version dropped a sentence that banned same-sex civil unions as well as marriage, so it isn’t identical to the resolution passed in the last session, a requirement before a proposal to change the Indiana Constitution can be put to voters.
The action this session contrasts strongly from 2011, when the original version got wide majorities in both houses.
Since that time, the issue of same-sex couples has swirled to the fore in Indiana, no doubt partly because the threat posed by the resolution’s advance galvanized even more opponents to action. Public awareness also became more acute, with opinion polls showing that attitudes, not only in Indiana but across the country, were evolving, especially among young people.
And there were the several recent federal court rulings that battered gay-marriage bans in other states, the last one Thursday in Virginia that overturned its ban on the basis that it violated equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Some of the reluctance by Indiana lawmakers to move forward with the ban as originally written probably has to do with the recognition the matter will be finally decided at the federal level, not with individual states.
Why fight a fight — even if you have a very comfortable majority, as do Republicans in both the Indiana Senate and House — that may be futile in the end? Why expend that energy and galvanize the liberal opposition with an issue that seems already out of state hands?