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February 1, 2013

Ballot question may slow down same-sex marriage ban amendment

Some state leaders want to wait on U.S. Supreme Court’s decision

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the issues slowing down the proposed same-sex marriage ban amendment is the question of how to remove it from the 2014 ballot if the U.S. Supreme Court rules this summer that such bans are unconstitutional.

According to elections officials with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, the state would have no authority to remove the question from the ballot, short of a court order.

It’s just one of the legal entanglements causing some key legislative leaders to push for a delay on a vote by the General Assembly to put the constitutional amendment up to voters in the 2014 election. 

“What a waste of money and time and effort if the Supreme Court rules one way and we’re sticking something on the ballot that says the other,” said Republican state Sen. Brent Steele, the influential chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the measure may end up.

Steele said “cooler heads” in the legislature are pushing for a delay on what’s become a hot-button issue. They want to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on two cases involving the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in July, after the General Assembly ends its session in April.

On Thursday, Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and Republican Senate President David Long said they’ll decide next week how to proceed. Long said he’s considering the legal issues involved if the General Assembly votes to put the amendment on the November 2014 ballot. He said the unpredictability of the high court “gives people pause.” 

Bosma said he personally thinks it’s “inadvisable” to move forward until the Supreme Court weighs in, but added that he won’t make that decision by himself.

Indiana already has a law banning same-sex marriage. But proponents of the amendment, which bans same-sex civil unions as well as same-sex marriage, want it locked it into the state’s constitution.

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