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Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Indiana.

Part 1

Indiana's proposed constitutional amendment to
ban SSM
s, civil unions & domestic partnerships:
Background. Legislative activity. Recent polls.

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Background:

Prior to election day in 2012, only six states and the District of Columbia allowed loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. By early 2014-JAN, the number had increased to 17. In addition, in two very conservative states -- Utah and Oklahoma -- rulings by federal District Courts had legalized same-sex marriage. However, these decisions have been appealed to the Tenth U.S. Court of Appeals and a stay prevents same-sex couples from marrying in those states pending a decision by the Court of Appeals.

National surveys show that about 54% of adults currently favor allowing same-sex marriage. This value is increasing from 1 to 2 percentage points a year while opposition drops by about the same amount.

Clearly, marriage equality is on a roll. Some commentators from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual (LGBT) community have predicted that when:

  • National polls show that support for marriage equality exceeds 60%, and
  • Most states have legalized SSM, and
  • Most Americans live in states where SSM is available, then

the U.S. Supreme Court will decide to legalize SSM in all states as it did for interracial marriages back in 1967.

However, in Indiana, a relatively conservative state, the Legislature may actively attempt to reverse this trend by authorizing a plebiscite to amend the state constitution. If it is placed on the ballot by the Legislature, and is passed by a majority of voters, then same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships will be banned indefinitely in Indiana until it the amendment is either:

  • Repealed by a future plebiscite by the voters, or

  • Declared unconstitutional by a federal court as in Utah and Oklahoma.

Like so many moves in other states, the bill promotes a stealth amendment. It is being publicized as a simple ban on same-sex marriage. But in reality, it would ban any type of government recognition of same-sex relationships, including SSMs, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.

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2011 to now: Anti-SSM Legislative activity in Indiana:

  • 2011: The Republican-dominated legislature overwhelming approved a bill to authorize a plebiscite on the 2014-NOV ballot that would allow voters to add an amendment to the state constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, entering a civil union, or entering a domestic partnership. If the amendment is passed. same-sex couples would be considered "legal strangers" by the state and its laws -- as mere roommates. They and their children would lack basic protections.

  • 2013-JUL-03: Governor Pence asked the state legislature to vote again on the Indiana Marriage Amendment (HJR-6) and thereby place the plebiscite on the 2014 ballot. Two votes by the Legislature are always required to place a plebiscite before the voters to amend the Constitution.

  • 2013-DEC-24: According to Monica Davey, writing for the New York Times:

    "... Indiana, where lawmakers in the coming weeks are expected to call for the second vote needed to put a ban before voters in the fall elections, is now in a far more tense, unpredictable and closely watched spot than anyone here had imagined — a test case in whether a state will impose new limits on same-sex marriage in this fast-moving political and legal environment." 1

  • 2013-JAN-04: Milissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC addressed the Indiana situation on air. She said:

    "In the coming weeks, the Republican-controlled state legislature could vote to put a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on the [2014-] November ballot. But one person in particular has the power and influence to help keep that from happening. And that’s why my letter this week is to Indiana’s Republican House Speaker:

    'Dear Speaker Brian Bosma, 

    It’s me, Melissa. 

    I know you’re facing a busy legislative agenda, and you’ve even admitted that the issue of marriage equality is not high on that agenda. But no matter where you stand on the issue personally, take a moment to consider Indiana’s place in history. 

    In 2011, state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the proposed constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. And now, a second vote is required before it can be considered by Indiana voters. But before you allow that vote to go forward–remember that the national landscape has changed since 2011. 

    Same-sex marriage is now legal in 18 states, including in Utah. Voters there passed a state constitutional amendment in 2004 banning same sex marriage–only to have it struck down by a federal judge last month. 

    So why the need for a constitutional amendment?

    Indiana already has a state statute barring same-sex couples from marrying. And the language in the proposed amendment is potentially troubling because it states ”a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

    So, opponents of the amendment point out that the language could close the door to even civil unions. And many of your constituents appear hesitant. 

    A recent poll showed that a majority of Indiana voters oppose amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage–and 11 Indiana mayors (six Democrats and five Republicans*) serving some of the state’s biggest cities have announced their opposition to the proposed amendment. 

    So, Speaker Bosma, you and your counterpart in the state Senate face a real test of leadership. You have already admirably called for any movement on this proposal to be done with respect and civility, and for Hoosiers to work through it together. 

    So I hope you do, and I hope you listen to your constituents and urge your colleagues to shelve a measure that many feel is neither civil nor respectful'." 2

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Summary of recent polling results:

Date Sponsor of poll % opposed to amendment % in favor of the amendment
2012 WISHTV etc.
54%
38%
2013-SEP Indiana Family Institute
33%
62%
2013-SEP Freedom Indiana
64%
36%
2013-OCT WISHTV etc.
58%
38%

We are at a loss to understand the Indiana Family Institute polling results. Perhaps the % opposed and % in favor results were accidentally interchanged.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above notes. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Monica Davey, "Indiana Finds It’s Not So Easy to Buck Gay Marriage Trend," New York Times, 2013-DEC-24, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  2. Melissa Harris-Perry, "Dear Brian Bosma: Stop Indiana’s amendment banning marriage equality," MSNBC, 2014-JAN-04, at: http://www.msnbc.com/

Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initially posted: 2014-JAN-17
Latest update: 2014-JAN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson
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