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April 30, 2013

KING: Marriage in the dock: Indiana vs. the world?

The recent U.S. Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage — e.g. the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 — have generated intense interest and speculation in what already was a controversial cultural issue.

And even after listening to the court’s justices ask questions of the lead attorneys, experienced court watchers were unsure how it would decide when it rules on the cases in late June. What is certain, though, is that the court’s decision will not fully resolve the issue, including whether or not the government should be involved in sanctioning marriage whatsoever.

Since 1989, when Denmark became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, popularity for homosexual legal rights including the right to marry has increased. According to The Economist magazine, same-sex marriage is legal in 13 countries, with New Zealand the most recent. But even as Britain decriminalized homosexuality in marriage in 1967, and our Supreme Court struck down all 14 state sodomy laws in 2003 (Lawrence vs. Texas), there is strong opposition around the world, especially in 78 African and Islamic countries where homosexuality and, de facto, same-sex marriages are a crime.

Still, our laws tend to change as public attitudes shift. Since 2000, when Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage (the first ceremony taking place in 2004), eight additional states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.

Indiana is one state for a ban on same-sex marriage. Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting Indiana’s statute disallowing homosexual couples to legally marry.

Even so, and despite strong opposition in the state toward legalizing same-sex marriage, the Indiana General Assembly pointedly decided to table any vote for a constitutional restriction until 2014. And recent polling numbers show that approximately 49 percent of Americans surveyed support the right of same-sex couples to marry. Differences are striking when controlled for age: Over 70 percent of the Millennial Generation favors same-sex marriage, compared with 38 percent of the Baby Boom Generation. Still, these numbers show distinct increases in favorability since 2003.

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