With a vote in the Indiana state Senate on Monday, the state officially missed its chance to put a same-sex marriage ban on the ballot for voters in 2014. The bill in question, HJR3, would have amended the state constitution to ban same sex marriages upon voter approval. Now, legislators will have to wait until at least 2016 to try again.
While today's vote is considered a victory by LGBT advocates in the state, it should be noted that the Indiana Senate vote was actually a "yes" on the ban. What? It's a bit confusing, so we'll explain. In order to go before the people of Indiana for a vote, the Indiana legislature has to pass the same bill in two separate legislative sessions, with identical wording. In 2011, the legislature passed a bill that would have proposed a ban on same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions.
This year, the legislature could have done one of three things: pass a bill identical to the 2011 bill (meaning that the proposal would go before voters in November), pass an amended version of the bill (meaning that they'd then have to consider the bill again in 2015), or kill the bill entirely. In order to get enough votes to pass the state House, lawmakers had to strip out the sentence banning unions and partnerships. The Republican-controlled Senate passed that amended version 32-17 today. Think of it as rebooting the process, rather than turning it off entirely.
A number of state legislators spoke out for and against the bill — Democratic state Senator Tim Lanane told lawmakers that "Time is not on the side of the idea of discrimination," adding that he believed the courts would eventually overturn same-sex marriage bans on the grounds that they violate the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. And Democratic state Senator Greg Taylor spoke about his own marriage."There was a time me and my wife couldn't be married in this state," Taylor told his colleagues. Taylor is black. His wife is white.
A number of senators also spoke out in support of the measure, which isn't surprising given that it did, in fact, pass legislative body. Many expressed some sort of "struggle" over the measure, but not because they were worried about denying same-sex couples their rights. Instead, legislators were frustrated that the bill before them didn't include bans on anything resembling legal unions between LGBT individuals in their state. When the bill advanced out of committee last Thursday without those extra protections, for instance, state Senator Mike Delph unleashed a series of angry tweets accusing the Indiana faith community of not supporting the original bill strongly enough.
But it is Republican state Senator Jim Tomes who gave the speech that is a contender for Least Likely to Withstand The March of History. "I've been struggling with this thing," he said, "my wife and I, I guess we said enough prayers to fill a calendar:"
"I'm told that this is a changing world. I know. I don't deny that. I remember a time when we had prayer in the classroom. We changed that out for cops. Banning tobacco, legalizing marijuana. An old phrase, Sunday go to meeting, long since gone. That's been changed out for Sunday alcohol sales."
Tomes went on to insinuate that the bill's opponents in the halls outside were from cars with "license plates out in the parking lots beyond our borders." He added: "they drove a long way to be here today, to influence what we do in our state." In fact, Indiana voters are split on the issue. A 2012 poll showed Hoosiers split 45 percent to 45 percent on legalizing gay marriage, with a majority against a constitutional amendment banning it. More recent polling on the subject has come from, LGBT advocacy group Freedom Indiana and from the state's GOP. Both polls show split results, with the numbers leaning slightly in each of their favors. But the issue might not come down to voters at all: as a large number of legal challenges to same-sex marriage bans in other states make their way through the courts, the Supreme Court could end up ruling by the issue as soon as 2015.