INDIANAPOLIS — 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 this week that Kentucky must recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states 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.