Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

January 16, 2014

KEVIN LEININGER: Compromise is possible on same-sex marriage bill

That's if anyone really wants one.

(Continued)

If I read the political tea leaves properly, I suspect Republican leaders are seriously considering removing the problematic second clause. And because the amended version would not be identical to the bill that passed the House by a 70-26 vote and the Senate 40-11 two years ago, Wagner said, the amendment process would go back to square one, meaning the Legislature would have three years to pass the bill twice before sending it to voters for approval.

And if that sounds like a cynical legislative ploy to avoid a final vote on a difficult issue, think again. Removing the second clause would not only improve the bill but would provide time to consider the wisdom and necessity of prohibiting in the constitution a practice that is already illegal in Indiana but is apparently gaining acceptance rapidly.

“It’s a generational thing,” Long said, referring to acceptance of same-sex marriage among younger Hoosiers. “Opposition used to be 80 percent. Now it’s 55 percent, and things are changing rapidly.”

Those who say the state has no business regulating marriage are wrong. Indiana code also limits marriage to close relatives, prohibits bigamy and establishes an age of consent — all of which could be challenged should the redefinition door be opened for same-sex couples.

But Wagner had a point when she said the constitution should be amended sparingly, and only with broad support. If Long is right and public sentiment continues to evolve, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage enacted now may be supported by only a minority of Hoosiers in four years — but difficult to repeal.

Activists on both sides of the debate are not looking for compromise. But, for now, the better part of valor may be for the Legislature to strategically retreat by removing the second clause, passing the first and waiting for the dust to settle. Time may provide the clarity this issue currently lacks, but desperately needs.

Kevin Leininger is a columnist for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne. Contact him at kleininger@news-sentinel.com.

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