Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

February 24, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Lessons from the marriage amendment debate

Public opinion is shifting toward acceptance.

(Continued)

Those numbers were based solely on an up-and-down vote on the marriage amendment. The Chesapeake Beach polling of legislative Republicans released in January revealed a classic dilemma. Long and Bosma would accentuate the fact 80 percent of Hoosiers wanted to vote on the matter. But 54 percent opposed the second sentence concerning civil unions. And that was without a dime being spent against it.

Proponents of the marriage amendment openly fretted they had to pass it this year, because the support might not be there in 2016. Essentially, proponents of the marriage amendment wanted this General Assembly to tie the hands of future assemblies on the question of whether to allow state-sanctioned civil unions and domestic partnerships.

State Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, framed it most aptly during a late January interview with Indiana Talks.com. “We have to put the right question on the ballot,” Leonard said. “Many of the people don’t believe it would pass in 2016. Why would we want to put it in the Constitution today in 2014 if it would not pass in 2016? We would be binding future generations to something they would not want to do.”

Ultimately, that was the most telling question. In best-case scenarios, constitutional amendments pass with clear, resolute majorities, as the lottery did in 1988 with more than 60 percent supporting and tax caps did two decades later with 70 percent supporting.

This shift in public opinion resulted in a loss of support in the House and Senate floors. It went from 70 votes in 2011 to 57 votes this year in the House. In the Senate, support fell from 40 to 32. This is a reflection on how things are changing on the ground, well beyond Bloomington and Broad Ripple and into places like Attica, Hartford City, Mount Vernon — and now the two super-majority-packed legislative chambers. Folks in small town and rural Indiana have, generally, more of a live/let live mentality. They are also for fairness.

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