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February 6, 2013

HAYDEN: Postponing vote doesn’t tell whole story

INDIANAPOLIS — If GOP leaders in the Indiana General Assembly announce this week, as expected, that they’re postponing a vote on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions, you can expect them to cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to step into the larger issue later this year as the primary reason. 

But that explanation doesn’t tell the whole story.  

Increasingly, the conservative Republicans who control the Statehouse are picking up on the evolution in the public’s thinking about same-sex relationships, reflected in a series of recent polls. 

And they especially don’t want to alienate younger voters who find the GOP’s traditional anti-gay position on same-sex marriage to be downright weird. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to weigh in on two same-sex marriage cases provides some convenient cover. Since the court’s ruling on whether same-sex marriage bans are constitutional isn’t expected until July, long after the Indiana legislature is out of session, Republican leaders can argue that it’s wise to wait. 

They’ll say they can always revisit the issue if the court doesn’t rule against such bans, and still have the 2014 session to decide whether to send the proposed amendment on to the public for a referendum vote in November 2014. 

And, since same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana, they can say there’s no immediate threat to the “traditional” family. 

But they know what the polls are showing — and how different they are from a few years ago, when the GOP thought a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was a sure-fire way to get their supporters out to vote. 

They got a glimpse of it last October, when the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll showed only 45 percent of Hoosier voters would support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Among younger voters, the percentage was much less.

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