Indiana's delay on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage met with optimism by UCC LGBT advocates

Indiana's delay on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage met with optimism by UCC LGBT advocates

February 07, 2013
Written by Anthony Moujaes

The Indiana state legislature's decision to delay a vote limiting marriage equality is a brief victory for LGBT rights, but United Church of Christ advocates think the state would do well to stop considering a proposed constitutional ban of same-sex marriage entirely. The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC minister for health and wholeness advocacy, is happy about the present news, yet is cautious about marriage equality's future in Indiana.

"Today there is reason to be glad this bill won't be considered by the Indiana legislature in 2013. But we also think it shouldn't be an issue going forward," Schuenemeyer said. "We support full marriage equality for all people in every state. The freedom to choose who we marry honors our pledge to justice and liberty for all."

Indiana lawmakers said they would wait until 2014 to revisit the issue, after the U.S. Supreme Court hears two cases this year on marriage equality, before they pushed forward with a proposed constitutional amendment. The state already has a law that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

UCC minister the Rev. Marie Siroky, president of Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination in Indiana, sent lawmakers a letter signed by 230 Indiana clergy members to focus on more important issues and leave the decision on who to marry to each faith community. Siroky hopes the delay gives lawmakers a chance to reconsider their position.

"I would like to believe that those who pushed for the bill before are actually seeing in their constituency that a lot of people are in favor of not having this as an amendment and are much more tolerant of people's religious views, and those who want to enter a same-sex relationship," Siroky said.

The national opinion turned in favor of same-sex marriages in the last year, with voters from three states (Maine, Maryland and Washington) approving marriage equality referendums, and voters from a fourth (Minnesota) rejecting a proposed constitutional ban. There are nine states, along with Washington, D.C., that recognize same-sex marriages: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington.

The Supreme Court scheduled two marriage equality cases for late March on the constitutionality on the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law limiting benefits to same-sex couples that are available to heterosexual couples, and California's Proposition 8, that state's law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Those cases will likely have a ruling by late June.

Had the state legislature passed the measure, "we could find ourselves in the very inadvisable situation of having a matter on the ballot in 2014 that has been ruled unconstitutional and there is no means of removing it from the ballot," Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said.

Two advocates of marriage equality organizations in the state think time may help turn opinions in their favor. Rick Sutton, executive director of Indiana Equality Action said "a delay is by no means a win. But we believe we are headed in a better direction."

The president of FairTalk, Jean Capler, thinks the state's voters can defeat the proposal with more time because of the delay. "I fully believe we can [defeat the proposal] based on just basic Hoosier common sense and a sense of fairness," she said.

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Anthony Moujaes
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