INDIANAPOLIS - Afraid that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could throw a wrench into the issue, Indiana lawmakers appear poised to delay action on a constitutional same-sex marriage ban for one year.
The Republican leaders of the Indiana House and Senate said Thursday that they’ll announce their plans to handle the proposed amendment next week. If it passes either this year or next, voters would get the final say through a November 2014 referendum.
Most of the members of the legislative committees that would cast the first votes on the measure – including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brent Steele, R-Bedford – told RTV6's reporting partner the Courier & Press they prefer to wait until the high court rules.
That’s largely because if lawmakers approved the amendment this year, they couldn’t tweak its language in 2014, even if the Supreme Court determines that all or portions of it are unconstitutional.
“There is no mechanism in place to get it off the ballot,” said Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville.
Legislative leaders appeared to agree. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday that he prefers to wait until 2014.
“Personally, I think it’s inadvisable to move forward with the United States Supreme Court having the issue before it,” he said. “But I’m not making that decision by myself.”
He said he’s talked to “virtually everyone” in the House Republican caucus, but that the group won’t vote in a closed-door meeting on how to proceed.
“This is not an issue of priority for us,” Bosma said.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he will bring the issue up in a caucus meeting of Republicans in that chamber.
“Our process is set up to be deliberate and patient, and this allows us to have that opportunity,” Long said. “Our caucus has yet to sit down as a full group and talk about it, and it’s been purposeful. We have other critical issues to address.”
Advocates for one-man, one-woman marriage said they’d like to see a vote this year, rather than a delay.
“They might as well vote on it and be done with it – they never have to touch it again,” said Micah Clark, the executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana. “If we do pass it, we’d be in the same position 31 other states are in with a marriage amendment. So I don’t see a reason to wait.”
Kenneth Klukowski, the attorney for the Indiana Family Institute, said in a legal analysis that lawmakers could actually help sway the Supreme Court’s ruling in two states’ cases by acting quickly.
“It is probably unlikely that the Supreme Court decisions will adversely affect Indiana’s marriage efforts, and voting again on the Indiana marriage amendment now might increase the odds of winning both cases,” he wrote.
Indiana lawmakers took the first step toward amending Indiana’s constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage, civil unions or any other legal recognition of gay couples in 2011, when the proposed amendment easily cleared both the House and the Senate.
If lawmakers approve the exact same measure in either 2013 or 2014, voters would then get the final say through a statewide referendum in the November 2014 election.
However, if the amendment fails to win passage in either of those years, it would restart the clock on the entire process, delaying the possibility of any vote until at least 2018.