Let the people decide.”
We have heard this cry from Gov. Mike Pence and a number of Republican members of the Indiana General Assembly when it comes to House Joint Resolution 6 - the Constitutional marriage amendment.
While Indiana already has a law that says state-recognized marriage is to be between one man and one woman, proponents of HRJ-6 want to place this in the state’s most sacred document, the Indiana Constitution.
The proposed amendment states: “Only marriage between one man and one woman will be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”
At this writing, unless House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long - both Republicans and both lawyers - convince their respective caucuses that not only is this amendment vague, but that the second sentence will almost certainly collide with the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that no American can be denied “equal protection of the laws,” it will likely go before voters via a referendum in November 2014.
Gov. Pence is straddling the dynamic here. The echoes of his own past career of public service include his oft stated self-description: “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order.” Yet his emergence into the gubernatorial sphere finds Pence at odds with his own historic mission. He has sought separation during his 2012 campaign and his first year in office, persistently saying his priorities are jobs and education.
Yet, he is set to watch his state enter perhaps the most divisive chapter in its modern history. The wink and a nod opt-in by Gov. Pence and his social conservative allies in the Indiana Senate and House is to “let the people decide.”