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February 12, 2014

KITCHELL: Same-sex marriage issue likely to be on ballot

About a decade ago, an Indiana legislator and I were talking about the emergence of the same-sex marriage issue in Indiana, and he told me the only answer to preventing gay marriage would be to ratify a state constitutional amendment.

That member is still in the Indiana General Assembly today, but so much has changed since we had that conversation. For starters, other states now permit same-sex marriage. We’re not talking about just New York or California here. We’re talking about Iowa.

It wasn’t that long ago that a senator from Illinois ran for president and didn’t support the notion. Admittedly, it took him some time to accept it. But he has.

The issue is still evolving nationally and Indiana is not alone in not allowing same-sex marriages.

What all this means is that the No. 1 issue in the Indiana General Assembly today will likely be on the ballot this year. We don’t know the wording, and we don’t even know how long the outcome of that vote will represent the opinions and wishes of the Indiana electorate in five years let alone one.

What we do know is that this issue isn’t going away and that many groups have weighed in on it as something Indiana should allow because many major employers offer benefits to employees with same-sex partners. Failing to permit something that other states already do will put Indiana at an economic disadvantage, these groups contend.

Indiana has traditionally been slow to accept these kinds of social changes. Ironically however, it supported the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, yet the nation has never added that amendment to our Constitution to guarantee equal pay for women.

What we do know is that regardless of how legislators vote on this issue, there will be fallout for them, depending on their districts. A referendum on same-sex marriage may alienate some, regardless of the outcome, but at the end of the day, it’s an issue that we have to address.

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