Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

February 24, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Lessons from the marriage amendment debate

Public opinion is shifting toward acceptance.

The voters will not see the constitu­tional marriage amendment on the Indiana ballot until 2016, if ever.

For much of the past two months, House Joint Resolution 3 has dominated legislative and media attention at a time when Indiana’s jobless rate is north of 6 percent, we have a methamphetamine epidemic (and in some places, heroin), our health metrics are trending south, and we are potentially leaving on the table more than $10 billion in federal Medicaid money you taxpayers already have contributed. We have so much more work to do.

So, what are the lessons of HJR-3?

There are many.

First, many Hoosiers came to recognize and oppose the second sentence, which the Indiana House removed and the Indiana Senate refused to restore. This second sentence would have prevented future legislatures from enacting any type of civil union or domestic partnerships. The family groups told us it was essential to prevent the constitutional amendment from falling prey to legal challenges. The opponents told us it would almost certainly be challenged in the courts anyway. There was little agreement on what it meant. It was confusing and divisive.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long explained after last Monday’s vote, “Why would we send something to the voters that’s constitutionally questionable? I think HJR-3 in its original form could have crashed and burned this fall on the second sentence. I think the whole discussion would have been on that and not about what we’re really talking about, which is about traditional marriage and whether it should be in the constitution or not. It’s the right thing to do to send it to another vote before the General Assembly. If it passes again, it will be put before the voters in 2016.”

Secondly, independent media polling has revealed a shift in the public. In a 2005 Indianapolis Star/WTHR-TV Poll, 56 percent supported the amendment. In 2007, it fell to 49 percent. In October 2012, a Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll found 48 percent support. And in a Howey Politics Indiana Poll in April 2013, 50 percent favored the amendment (House Speaker Brian Bosma acknowledged HPI polling mirrored House Republican Campaign Committee surveys on the topic). Finally, a WISH-TV/Ball State Poll last December found 57.5 percent opposed.

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