Gay marriage battle will be fought in 2014

Despite pressure from Republicans’ social conservative flank to act now, lawmakers will wait until next year to vote on whether to write a same-sex marriage prohibition into Indiana’s constitution.

Republican leaders said Thursday that they will not vote on the proposed amendment this year and will wait until next year instead because they want to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue this summer. Then they’ll know if Indiana’s proposed amendment – which also bans civil unions or anything like them – can go forward as it’s currently drafted.

It was a decision supported by an “overwhelming” majority of the party’s members, said state Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne. He announced the one-year delay alongside House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

“It seems prudent for us to wait, given that the possibility exists the Supreme Court could find ours, as well as many other statutes throughout the country and constitutional amendments, unconstitutional,” Long said.

Technically, it doesn’t matter. Whether lawmakers approved the amendment this year or next, it would go on the 2014 ballot for final approval.

But the decision carries political consequences.

“We have 320 days to convince legislators to be on our side,” said Rick Sutton, the executive director of Indiana Equality Action.

Despite the delay, Long and Bosma said they support the amendment and believe it will ultimately be approved. As long as the Supreme Court’s ruling is favorable, the measure “has the wind at its back next year,” Bosma said.

He said it “is still supported by a majority of Hoosiers, significantly. That’s my statistical analysis of it, and it’s proven to be correct in the past.”

However, two recent publicly-released polls show a rapid shift.

A recent Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll found that 45 percent of likely Hoosier voters would support such a constitutional amendment, while 43 percent would oppose it.

A Ball State University survey, meanwhile, found that just 38 percent of Hoosiers – the entire population, rather than likely voters – support a constitutional ban of same-sex marriages and civil unions.

The portion of the amendment that bans not just same-sex marriage but any legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships has caused some Republican lawmakers and businesses the most consternation.

Even Bosma said that portion is the most controversial, though he said it doesn’t change his mind about the amendment overall.

“I may not agree with every word in it,” Bosma said, “and if I were sitting down to draft it on a fresh piece of paper I might draft it a little differently, but, you know, we are where we are with it.”

Both Long and Bosma acknowledged that some Republicans who supported the amendment in 2011, as well as some newly-elected members, would oppose it now.

“Like the general public, some legislators that supported it in 2011 are having second thoughts about it and re-examining the issue,” Bosma said, adding that a “handful” of veteran Republicans might switch their votes and “some of the new folks” might oppose it, too.

“When you look at younger peoples’ views of this versus people of middle age and older, there are different perspectives on it,” Long said. “That’s something that we all realize.”

Gay rights advocates called the delay a win – even if a minor one – because they say the more time they can buy, the better their odds become.

“A delay is by no means a win, but we believe we are headed in a better direction,” Sutton said.

He said Indiana Equality Action has worked for seven months on a public relations campaign to try to defeat the amendment in the General Assembly or, if necessary, at the ballot box in 2014.

It’s also being opposed by Columbus-based engine maker Cummins, Inc., Indianapolis drug-maker Eli Lilly and Company and other businesses who say a same-sex marriage ban would harm their efforts to attract top out-of-state talent to Indiana.

The Republican-dominated General Assembly took the first step toward writing a same-sex marriage ban into Indiana’s constitution in 2011, when the proposed amendment easily passed the House and the Senate.

If lawmakers once again approve the exact same measure either this year or next year, then the amendment would go on the November 2014 ballot and voters would get the final say through a statewide referendum.

Legislative leaders could announce gay marriage decision Thursday

Top state lawmakers are expected to announce today whether they will vote this year or wait until 2014 on a measure that would amend a same-sex marriage ban into Indiana’s constitution.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, scheduled a joint news conference for 1 p.m. Thursday.

They both previously told reporters that they will announce how they’ll handle the issue – with a vote either this year or next on whether to put the proposed amendment on Indiana’s 2014 ballot – sometime this week.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on two other states’ marriage laws expected to be delivered this summer has given lawmakers pause. Most members of the House and Senate judiciary committees, which would cast the first votes on the measure, told the Courier & Press they prefer to wait until they know whether that ruling could affect Indiana’s proposed amendment.

Last week both Bosma and Long nodded toward waiting, as well. “Personally, I think it’s inadvisable to move forward with the United States Supreme Court having the issue before it,” Bosma said.

The amendment lawmakers are considering would ban same-sex marriage as well as civil unions or any similar legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.

It passed both the House and the Senate in 2011. The second step in the process of amending Indiana’s constitution requires the exact same proposed amendment to pass again in either 2013 or 2014. If it does, voters would get the final say through a 2014 referendum.

Vote on marriage amendment likely in 2014 rather than 2013

The two top Republicans in the General Assembly — House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long — both said Thursday that they plan to announce next week whether they’ll take up the constitutional same-sex marriage ban during this year’s session or wait until 2014.

The best bet right now is that they’ll wait until 2014.

I’ve got two stories — one from last week and one from Monday — that lay out exactly why. The short version: Most members of the House and Senate judiciary committees want to delay action until they hear what the U.S. Supreme Court has to say.

Nine of the 13 House Judiciary Committee members say wait until 2014 or later, and the other four say they don’t have a preference. Only four of those 13 members say they’re definitely supporting the proposed amendment, while six of them — including five who have voted for it in previous years — didn’t stake out firm positions. That means it’s not entirely clear that the measure has the votes to pass the House.

Meanwhile, most members of the Senate Judiciary Committee also say they prefer 2014. The proposed amendment is currently waiting in the Senate’s rules committee, but Long would likely direct it to the Judiciary Committee when he decides to consider it. The chairman of that committee, Bedford Republican Brent Steele, was among those who told me he’d rather wait until 2014.

Outside groups, including Eric Miller’s Advance America and Micah Clark’s American Family Association of Indiana, say they prefer lawmakers go ahead and cast their votes on the marriage amendment in 2013.

But Bosma and Long are reacting to what appears to be a broad majority of their members who say they should push the debate off until 2014.

More Republicans want to delay marriage vote by one year

A growing number of lawmakers say they’d prefer to delay Indiana’s battle over a constitutional same-sex marriage ban for a year in order to wait for a key U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The top Senate leader said Republicans will meet soon to discuss a legal analysis of what the court’s ruling on other states’ marriage laws could mean for Indiana’s proposed amendment. He said they’ll determine how to handle the issue then.

“We’ll take it to caucus and discuss it next week,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

Several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel that started the clock on Indiana’s three-step constitutional amendment process by approving the ban in 2011 – told the Courier & Press they’d prefer to vote during the General Assembly’s 2014 session.

“Just as a pragmatic and probably an economical approach to the whole thing – it’d be better to wait and not waste time and money in case the Supreme Court goes a different direction,” said the committee’s chairman, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

However, members of the Republican-dominated General Assembly are being pushed by advocates of one-man, one-woman marriage laws to move forward during their 2013 session.

Eric Miller, the head of Advance America whose network of more than 3,700 churches has made him a powerful conservative leader, said it “would be good” for lawmakers to cast their final votes on the issue this year.

“I think it would again pass overwhelmingly,” Miller said. “It would send a signal to the U.S. Supreme Court that Indiana believes marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Steele, who said he “probably” supports the proposed amendment, said the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect portions of the measure. It includes a second sentence that also bars civil unions or any other legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.

Lawmakers “don’t have the ability to undo” any of the language included in the measure if they’ve already voted to put to voters through a statewide referendum, he said.

“I think next year would be more appropriate because we really need to see what the Supreme Court decision’s going to do,” Steele said.

The House and Senate both took the first step toward amending a same-sex marriage ban into Indiana’s constitution in 2011. If both chambers approve the exact same measure in either 2013 or 2014, voters would have the final say through a November 2014 referendum.

A one-year delay would give opponents of the ban, who won fights in favor of same-sex marriage in four states during the 2012 elections, another year to try to sway lawmakers – and to prepare for what would likely be an expensive and high-profile campaign.

Republican leaders, including Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, have advocated the amendment in previous years but say this year that it’s fallen on their priority list.

Several other senators who serve on the 10-member Judiciary Committee said they, too, want to wait for the Supreme Court to rule.

Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, said she believes “marriage should be between a man and a woman,” but that she hasn’t decided whether she supports the amendment. She said she’d prefer to cast her vote in 2014.

“I’m opposed to hanging ornaments on the constitution like a Christmas tree, but if that’s what we have to do to protect marriage, then I guess we’ll have to do it. But right now, I’d like to see what the Supreme Court has to say,” she said.

Two others – Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel – said they support the proposed amendment, but that waiting until 2014 could make sense if lawmakers want to dodge potential consequences of the looming Supreme Court ruling.

“There probably is a little wisdom in waiting to see what the Supreme Court decides to do or not to do before we lock the voters into a referendum. But I don’t have a strong feeling one way or another,” Delph said.

Three other Republicans – Sen. Joe Zakas of Granger, Sen. Randy Head of Logansport and Sen. Doug Eckerty of Yorktown – said they have no opinion.

Six of the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which also approved the amendment in 2011, told the Courier & Press last week that they are unsure how they’d vote this year. Four said they support the amendment and three said they oppose it.

Nine of the 13 said they prefer to wait until 2014 – at least – to deal with it, while none said they feel it’s important to tackle the issue in 2013.

Miller, the Advance America leader, said his call for a 2013 vote doesn’t mean he wants lawmakers to push their work on other key issues to the side.

“I don’t have a problem with it waiting,” he said, “until after the budget and after some education and economic development matters pass the House and Senate.”

Gay marriage ban might not have votes to clear House committee

An effort to place a constitutional same-sex marriage ban on Indiana’s 2014 ballot might not have the votes to make it to the House floor.

Most of the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which must green-light the proposed amendment before it reached the full chamber for a vote, say they’d rather wait until next year – at the earliest – to take up the issue.

Four of those members say they support the amendment that would block Indiana from legally recognizing gay couples’ relationships. Three oppose it. And six said they haven’t firmly decided how they would vote.

Those who are on the fence and want a one-year delay pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected to come this summer, as well as complaints from business groups that say the ban would harm their efforts to attract top talent to the state.

“Conceptually, I am in favor of marriage being defined as between a man and a woman. But we have to get it right if we’re going to put it in the constitution,” said Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington.

You can read the rest of the details here, but the “yes” votes are Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Evansville, and Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.

The “no” votes are three Democrats — Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis, Rep. Ryan Dvorak of South Bend and Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary.

And the six “maybes” are Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Mooresville, and Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven.

Long ‘still deciding’ how to handle gay marriage ban

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Tuesday that he is “still deciding” whether to take up the proposed constitutional same-sex marriage ban during this year’s session.

He said he is waiting for a legal opinion on how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, expected in the coming months, could affect Indiana. He said after he receives that legal opinion, he’ll talk with House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

“We will wait for that legal opinion, and the speaker and I will huddle again and talk about it, and we’ll talk about it and we’ll talk about it with our caucuses,” Long said.

The House and Senate both approved a measure that would amend a ban of same-sex marriage, civil unions or any similar legal status into Indiana’s constitution in 2011. If they each vote in favor of the exact same measure again in either 2013 or 2014, voters would get the final say in a November 2014 referendum.

Turner: House should vote on gay marriage ban this year

INDIANAPOLIS – An influential Republican says the Indiana House should vote this year on a constitutional same-sex marriage ban, but the chamber’s leaders are not yet saying how they’ll handle the issue.

Rep. Eric Turner of Cicero, the Republican who has repeatedly introduced the measure and served as its chief advocate in the House, said he is filing it again during this year’s four-month session and wants to see it get a vote.

“I think we should go ahead and do it this year,” he said.

His move comes as legislative leaders decide whether they should use this year’s session to take the next step in a process they started in 2011 – one that could culminate in a November 2014 statewide referendum.

Since its passage in the Senate is all but assured, how the measure will be handled in the House – where Republicans have a newly-minted supermajority, but also saw similar efforts defeated in four states in 2012 – is the key question.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Monday that Democrats want a “two-year moratorium” on social issues. That would re-start the clock on the same-sex marriage ban, delaying a statewide vote until at least 2018.

“People deserve a break from the political exploitation of their fears and emotions as we work to rebuild our economy,” Pelath said.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said social issues are not his focus, but that he is “not declaring a moratorium on anything.” He has not said how his chamber will handle the same-sex marriage issue.

The chairman of the committee where Turner’s measure is likely to be assigned said “there has been no decision made” on whether to tackle it this year or wait until 2014.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s move to take up two states’ same-sex marriage bans and said lawmakers might wait for its ruling.

“The lawyer in me understands that we like to hear what the Supreme Court says and gives their rulings on issues, which we have to abide by. So obviously that’s a pretty significant factor for us,” Steuerwald said.

He said he will decide how to proceed with “input from the entire (House Republican) caucus.”

“It would be a joint decision that I would make with the caucus, taking everybody’s input in mind. It would not simply be my decision,” Steuerwald said.

Amending Indiana’s constitution is a three-step process, and lawmakers took the first step when the House and Senate approved a ban on same-sex marriage, civil unions or any similar legal status in 2011.

The second step requires the House and Senate to wait for an election to take place, and then pass the exact same measure again in one of the next two years. For this step, whether the vote takes place in 2013 or 2014 makes no procedural difference.

The final step would be in voters’ hands, as the measure would be subject to a statewide referendum during the November 2014 general election.

Turner said the Supreme Court’s looming decision – expected to come around June – does little to change Indiana’s debate.

“Really, nothing would change,” Turner said. “I think it’s probably more appropriate just to go ahead and do it and allow the public to weigh in and give both proponents and opponents plenty of time to engage before it’s on the ballot.”

Public opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage has rapidly shifted. More than 30 consecutive states had approved measures limiting marriage rights to one man and one woman, but November’s election saw four – Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington – reject such efforts.

Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany, the only Republican who opposed the same-sex marriage ban when the House voted for the first time on it in 2011, said the court’s decision is one reason lawmakers should wait.

Another, he said, is the opposition of businesses such as Columbus, Ind.-based engine maker Cummins, Inc. that say such a ban would hurt their efforts to recruit top talent.

Clere said some of his colleagues are increasingly wary of moving forward with it.

“That’s been going on for two years, since the first vote, and it’s picked up a lot recently. I’ve been hearing from a lot of folks,” he said. “I think there are other legislators besides me who have additional concerns.”

Key lawmaker taking wait-and-see approach on gay marriage ban

The House committee chairman who will play a key role in Indiana’s same-sex marriage debate said lawmakers could wait on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule before taking up the issue.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said “there has been no decision made” on whether the chamber will vote on a constitutional same-sex marriage ban during this year’s session, or wait until 2014.

“The lawyer in me understands that we like to hear what the Supreme Court says and gives their rulings on issues, which we have to abide by. So obviously that’s a pretty significant factor for us,” Steuerwald said.

He said if a lawmaker files a resolution on same-sex marriage and it’s assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, just like it was in 2011, he will decide how to proceed with “input from the entire (House Republican) caucus.”

“It would be a joint decision that I would make with the caucus, taking everybody’s input in mind. It would not simply be my decision,” Steuerwald said.

Lawmakers took the first step toward amending a ban on same-sex marriage, civil unions or any similar legal status into Indiana’s constitution in 2011. If they approve the exact same measure in either 2013 or 2014, voters will get the final say in a November 2014 referendum.

Religious group opposes same-sex marriage ban

As the Indiana General Assembly kicks off its 2013 session, a key question is whether lawmakers will vote on a measure that would amend a ban on same-sex marriage, civil unions or anything like them into the state’s constitution.

A clergy group called the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination weighed in Sunday night with a letter signed by 230 religious leaders. It asks lawmakers to take no further action on what the group calls the “marriage discrimination amendment.”

“We as faith leaders ask the legislature to concentrate on matters which deserve attention,” said Rev. Marie Siroky, a United Church of Christ ordained minister and president of the coalition.  “Religious freedom allows each faith community and denomination to decide for themselves the tenets of their faith, including marriage. Laws cannot be made based on one particular religious view. There is no common-sense reason to devote weeks of attention to this amendment when Hoosiers need a new budget, jobs and we have a new governor building a new administration.”

Read the group’s letter here.

The constitutional same-sex marriage ban passed the House and Senate in 2011, and if it does so again in 2013 or 2014 in the exact same form, then the third and final step of the amendment process would be a statewide referendum in November 2014.