INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Opponents of an effort to place
Indiana's gay marriage ban in the state constitution won a surprising
victory Thursday as the Senate effectively pushed off a statewide vote on
the issue for at least two years, and possibly longer.
In a parliamentary move that spared state senators a tough vote on the
measure, the Senate advanced the marriage ban without the "second
sentence" ban on civil unions. The House stripped that language from the
amendment before passing it last month, and the Senate's decision not to
restore the language before voting Thursday means the effort to amend the
constitution must start fresh.
Even if Indiana's marriage ban clears the Senate on a final vote Monday,
it would have to be debated again in the next biennial session, 2015-16,
before it could appear before voters.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said many lawmakers
sensed that the final say on the issue ultimately will be made by the U.S.
Supreme Court. A federal court ruling overturning Kentucky's
constitutional ban on gay marriage this week was weighed in private
discussions among Senate Republicans, and Long said he could sense
momentum building for a high court ruling.
"In reality, I think the issue is going to be before the United States
Supreme Court — as I've said before — and it's either going to be a
state's rights issue and each state decides for itself or it's going to be
decided by the Supreme Court that it's a violation of the 14th Amendment,"
Long said. "One way or another they're going to have the final say in this
because the U.S. Constitution trumps a state constitution."
Indiana's gay marriage battle was playing out as federal courts in
Oklahoma and Utah overturned constitutional bans and New Mexico's high
court overturned that state's marriage ban.
The state Senate's decision caps a sharp turnabout in Indiana, where just
three years ago the constitutional ban passed the General Assembly with
overwhelming majorities. But national attitudes on gay marriage have
shifted sharply, and opponents of the ban were able to build a strong
coalition that lobbied Indiana lawmakers heavily — privately and in
Indiana's gay marriage battle also opened a rift among Republicans in the
solidly conservative state. Pro-business conservatives, including many who
had worked closely with former Gov. Mitch Daniels, largely lined up
against the marriage ban. While social conservatives, mostly aligned with
Republican Gov. Mike Pence, fought hard to shepherd the ban to the 2014
Some of the Republican Party's strongest fundraisers, including former
George W. Bush economic adviser Al Hubbard and former Indiana Republican
Party Chairman Jim Kittle, opened their wallets for Freedom Indiana, the
umbrella organization opposing the marriage ban.
"Six months ago, if you'd said lawmakers would refuse to put this issue on
the ballot in 2014 by stripping out the deeply flawed second sentence, I'd
have said there's no way," said Megan Robertson, Freedom Indiana campaign
manager and a veteran Indiana Republican operative.
The author of a proposal that would have restored the civil unions ban and
place the constitutional ban back on track for a November referendum
bemoaned the fact that he could not find enough support among Republican
The ban's "second sentence is officially dead in the 2014 IGA. Not enough
support to reinsert it on 2nd reading," Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, wrote
on Twitter. Long later chided Delph for discussing a private meeting of
the Indiana Republicans.
When the constitutional ban came up for consideration Thursday, Lt. Gov.
Sue Ellspermann — who presides over the Senate — asked lawmakers if they
had any amendments. The Senate chamber was silent, as were hundreds of
activists just outside the Senate who had been chanting and singing just
Ellspermann then acknowledged she had heard no amendments to the measure,
and declared it ready for a final vote later in the Senate. Thursday was
the last day lawmakers could have altered the measure and put it back on
track for a November vote.
Delph later said he did not seek a vote on restoring the "second sentence"
civil unions ban because he knew it would fail.
Supporters of the ban say it is needed to prevent courts from overturning
Indiana's law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But they
struggled to find their footing after House lawmakers stripped the civil
Pence lobbied for a November vote on the ban in his State of the State
address and at a rally of ban supporters, but later said he was removing
himself from the legislative debate.