INDIANAPOLIS - Two top Republican lawmakers predicted that the Indiana General Assembly will consider a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in early 2013.
Their comments -- which were met with quick rebukes from Democrats -- came Thursday during a panel discussion at a conference previewing the four-month, budget-writing legislative session that starts in January.
"I'm positive someone will file the bill," said Jim Merritt of Indianapolis, whose post as Majority Caucus Chairman makes him the No. 3 Senate Republican.
Merritt said that judges' decisions in six states to legalize same-sex marriage "tends to harass" some Senate Republicans, which he said is part of why the issue will "pop up" again.
"We have 37 members in our caucus, and obviously, 37 minds. We actually go where the caucus takes us. This won't be from the top down. There will be a lot of issues discussed," he said.
Indiana lawmakers already took the first step toward writing a ban of same-sex marriage or any other similar legal status into the state's constitution in 2011. If they approve the exact same measure again in 2013 or 2014, it'll go to voters for a final vote in November 2014.
Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence deflected questions about the amendment Thursday, saying he is focused on transitioning into office and getting the items on his “Roadmap for Indiana” agenda accomplished.
He said he would only address it further once Indiana lawmakers decide whether and when to take it up. "My views on that issue are well-known," he said.
Like Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has championed a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in previous years.
In the upcoming session, he said, it will not be on his list of priorities, but he predicted the measure will be introduced and said it would “be treated like every other bill.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has championed a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in previous years.
In the upcoming session, he said, it will not be on his list of priorities, but he predicted the measure will be introduced and said it would "be treated like every other bill."
He said he has heard the argument that Indiana should wait to see how the U.S. Supreme Court handles the issue, but that he is "not certain that that’s advisable at this point. It’s certainly under consideration."
"It’s not about who can marry, it's about who decides. It has been my personal opinion that it's appropriate for elected officials to decide this, and not unelected judges," Bosma said.
The top House and Senate Democrats -- both essentially powerless, since Republicans hold more than two-thirds of the seats in both chambers -- urged their GOP counterparts to drop the measure.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said Republicans were attempting to downplay their interest in the issue -- and that they'll have little success.
"This is a hot-button issue, and if you think it's a hot-button issue in the Indiana General Assembly, just wait until you turn it loose to the entire state of Indiana for an election," he said.
He said the ban Indiana is considering amounts to "discrimination."
"This is an opportunity for us to step into the 21st century. The trend is clear," Lanane said. "Talk to your kids. Talk to your grandkids about this issue. They don't get why we're so upset about this."
House Minority Leader Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, pointed to businesses -- Columbus-based engine-maker Cummins is among the most prominent -- that have said the ban would make it tougher for them to attract top talent.
"If we're concerned about jobs and we're concerned about moving our state forward, there's absolutely no reason in a million years why we would let a social issue that is based on someone else's morality to not allow those folks to come to our state and provide and also contribute to our economy in the state that we live in," she said.
Both sides are preparing to take their case on the issue to Indiana voters.
Indiana Equality Action, a pro-gay rights group, recently endorsed a report by Indiana University law school students that indicated the ban Indiana lawmakers are considering would impact more than 600 state laws, ranging from inheritance rights to conflict-of-interest restrictions.
Meanwhile, Eric Miller, the head of the pro-Christian values group Advance America, said it and other groups will tap into their networks of churches to drive voters to the polls to defend traditional one-man, one-woman marriage.
Indiana would be considering a constitutional amendment after gay rights advocates won battles to either legalize same-sex marriage or block amendments barring it in four states -- Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington -- on Nov. 6.
Those four victories came after more than 30 states voted against same-sex marriage rights, and public opinion polls suggest that Americans' views on the issue are changing.
A WISH-TV/Ball State University poll released at Thursday's conference found that Hoosiers split evenly on the question of whether same-sex couples should be given marriage rights, with 45 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.
But the survey of 602 Indiana residents found that 54 percent said a ban on same-sex marriage or similar legal rights for those couples should not be enshrined in the state's constitution, while just 38 percent said it should.
"Obviously, we've got a new cohort coming in. Younger people are moving up. Younger people are much more supportive of gay marriage," said Joseph Losco, a Ball State political science professor. "I think we're seeing a transition here generationally that's pretty important."