Expect a state ballot measure next year targeting same-sex marriage.
Two leading state lawmakers indicated as much Wednesday, and four members of Elkhart County's delegation to the Indiana General Assembly indicate that they're on board with the effort.
“I would be of the opinion it'll be put on the ballot,” State Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, said Thursday, June 27. Presuming the question gets put to voters on a ballot — whether to define marriage in the Indiana Constitution as the union of one man and one woman — “I think it will pass. I think it will probably be close.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday issued two decisions on same-sex marriage, notably striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex married couples. The decisions were hailed by gay rights activists and their backers in their push to legalize same-sex marriage, but members of Elkhart County's legislative contingent weren't so upbeat.
Indiana Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, expressed disappointment over the rulings, though also a measure of optimism that the decisions leave leeway to address the same-sex marriage issue at the state level.
“I'm not saying it's a slam dunk,” Culver said, alluding to likely moves in Indiana to put the same-sex marriage question on a ballot. “But I think it'll be heard.”
State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, sounded off on Facebook in the hours after the high court ruling, also stating that the decisions seem to grant individual states maneuvering room on the issue. “Therefore, it is my firmest conviction that Indiana should continue in the process of adopting a constitutional provision defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman only, and thereby recognize in our state's highest law what was established at the beginning of time,” Wesco wrote.
Soon after the Supreme Court rulings Wednesday, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long — both Republicans — said the General Assembly would likely take up the matter during the 2014 session, according to the Associated Press.
Lawmakers in each chamber would have to formally approve measures putting a question to voters. Then Indiana voters would decide at the polls in November 2014 whether to define marriage in the Indiana Constitution as the union of one man and one woman.
“Anytime something's in the Constitution, it does become more solidified,” said Culver. If the question gets on a ballot, the deciding factor, he thinks, would be which side can generate the best turnout.
'SPECIAL MALE-FEMALE RELATIONSHIP'
While backing a process that would ultimately leave the question of whether to amend the state Constitution to voters, the Elkhart County lawmakers also voiced their personal support for limiting marriage to male-female unions.
Culver worries of “unforeseen consequences” of same-sex marriage.
Allowing such unions would legitimize them and lead to their acceptance and tolerance in public schools, Culver thinks. Parents against such marriages would pull their kids from public schools as a result, which would likely lead to moves to let public funding earmarked for such children follow them to private institutions.
Ultimately, public schools would suffer and quality of education would take a hit.
Male-female unions, moreover, lead to “stronger families, a stronger society,” and they're supported in the Bible, Culver said.
As a conservative, Neese said, limiting marriages to male-female unions “is an appropriate approach.”
Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, called male-female unions a “foundational type of element” in society.
“Over the years, societies have shown deference to male-female marriage relationships in order to have a future,” he said. “That's a reason that there's children.”
Pushing for an amendment isn't necessarily a matter of banning anything, Zakas said, but “recognizing ... the special male-female relationship and marriage.”