Indiana’s fight over same-sex marriage came to a welcome if temporary halt on Thursday when the state Senate declined to budge on the question of civil unions.
What that surprise decision means is that either it would be at least 2016 before the question could come before the voters of Indiana, or, more likely, the debate could be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, and never come to a Hoosier referendum.
Had the issue played out as expected, the Republican controlled House and Senate would have voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage and civil unions, leading up to a statewide voter referendum as early as this year.
However, opposition from influential groups, especially business and industry, encouraged the legislature to back off, arguing that passage of the amendment would be damaging to the Indiana economy if it discouraged business and industry with gay and lesbian leadership from locating in Indiana.
But something surprising happened when the Indiana House voted last month to remove the second sentence, the one banning civil unions, from the proposed amendment.
What that meant, if there were no further changes, that it could be 2016 before it could go to a statewide vote.
And that would be true only if the Senate also dropped the civil union ban.
But the Senate did not change. On Thursday, the Senate, also controlled by a Republican majority, refused of change, meaning the issue would be stalled until at least 2016 — a good decision for Indiana, a conservative state that does not need the stigma of putting out an unwelcome door mat for gays and lesbians.
Of course, statutory law already bans same-sex marriage in Indiana.
If we had to guess, we would say Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, knows best where this issue is headed.