INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana General Assembly will wait until next year to decide whether to send a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions to voters for ratification.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced Thursday the Senate and House Republican majorities "overwhelmingly" decided not to act on the proposed amendment until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in June on the constitutionality of a similar provision in California's constitution.
"It seemed prudent for us to wait given that the possibility exists the Supreme Court could find ours, as well as many other statutes throughout the country, and constitutional amendments, unconstitutional according to the federal constitution — which would take priority over our own if they were to so rule," Long said.
Indiana law already prohibits gay marriage. In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a measure adding that gay marriage ban as well as a restriction on civil unions to the state constitution.
The proposed constitutional amendment must be approved a second time by the House and Senate in 2013 or 2014 for the amendment to go to Hoosier voters for their approval in November 2014 before it can become part of Indiana's Constitution.
Bosma said he has no doubt that if the amendment is sent to voters they will agree to add the gay marriage and civil union prohibition to the Indiana Constitution.
"I'm confident if it hits the floor (of the House) it passes, this year for that matter, but I believe it's inadvisable to put ourselves in the position of having a possibly unconstitutional amendment on the ballot with no means to remove it," Bosma said.
That position is a sharp contrast to neighboring Illinois, which already permits civil unions for same-sex partners.
On Tuesday, a Senate committee approved legislation that would make Illinois the 10th state to legalize gay marriage. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has scheduled a full Senate vote on the gay marriage proposal for Feb. 14.
Outside the Indiana Senate chamber Thursday, opponents of the proposed Hoosier marriage amendment cheered the decision to delay a vote in the Legislature.
"We think it's prudent, we think it's smart; we think waiting for the Supreme Court to finish is the right thing to do," said Rick Sutton, executive director of Indiana Equality Action.
Sutton said his organization will use the extra time to educate Hoosiers there's no need for the amendment.