INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana lawmakers will delay taking action on a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage for one year, awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, made the announcement Thursday afternoon.
If the proposal passes either this year or next, voters would get the final say through a November 2014 referendum. But 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.
Bosma and Long have both said they prefer to wait until 2014.
"Personally, I think it's inadvisable to move forward with the United States Supreme Court having the issue before it," Bosma said last week.
Long said waiting for the Supreme Court ruling is best, because the Court could rule that it's a state's right to decide, and Indiana would be free to move forward with the ban.
"We think it's prudent to wait," Long said Thursday. "We have 2014 to vote on it. And if the Supreme Court gives the states a clean bill of health, makes it a states' rights decision, as it very well might, then we will be able to move forward without any questions about constitutionality of this provision."
But Eric Miller, director of Advance America, said the group wants the proposal voted on now.
"I think it's important to let the people of Indiana know and let the Supreme Court know that Indiana is going to continue to move forward to protect marriage between a man and a woman," he said.
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.
Gay rights advocates thanked the Republicans for their decision to postpone the measure, even though the move was only tactical and doesn't represent any change of heart by lawmakers.
"We want to thank the legislative leadership for taking this courageous move to delay any vote on the Marriage Amendment this year," said Rick Sutton, with Indiana Equality Action. "We think it's prudent. We think it's smart. We think waiting until the Supreme Court is finished is the right thing to do."
Gay rights advocates said they will get back to work trying to change the minds of lawmakers and Hoosiers in general, so they will defeat the same-sex marriage ban next year if it comes back for a vote.