Sometimes, it’s the small things often below the radar that tell you the most. Three years ago, a constitutional amendment to ban civil marriages and civil unions for gay couples swept the Indiana legislature. This time: not so much. After a revolt by some Republicans in the Indiana House of Representatives, the wording of the amendment was stripped of its ban on civil unions and workplace benefits for same-sex spouses. And the vote to pass that diluted measure passed by a modest majority in the hyper-conservative state. The Senate will now consider the proposal.
The likely upshot? The ban is now unlikely to be on the ballot this year – and will be there, at the earliest, in 2016. By that time, I wonder, how many more Republicans will be queasy about it?
Update from a reader:
Not so fast. I wish I could be as sanguine about the Indiana constitutional amendment. Several factors are at play here:
1. When it appeared that the amendment might not even make it out of committee, the Indiana Speaker of the House (who had, prior to the legislative session, led everyone to believe that the amendment was “not a priority” for the Republican caucus) moved the bill to a committee that was more favorable. This despite the fact that every major employer in the state (e.g., Eli Lilly, Cummins) and every major state university (except Notre Dame, because, well you know, and Purdue, because Purdue’s president is Mitch Daniels, who is trying to preserve his future political viability with the crazies) has publicly opposed the amendment.
2. Although the House stripped out the anti-civil union language, there is a very good chance the Senate will put it right back in. And the House will likely pass it next time, with some rhetoric about “the will of the people” and the hope that no one notices.
3. Indiana’s governor, the empty suit Mike Pence, has staked his credibility with his base of right-wing evangelicals on the passage of this amendment. This is, politically, a mistake, since the governor has no role in amending the state constitution and he could have sat this one out. But Pence, who has done virtually nothing substantive – good or bad – since taking office, is a true believer on this one. (As a side note, he makes Mitch Daniels time in office look good, and I can’t stand Daniels.)
4. The proponents of the amendment are couching the entire issue as “let the people vote” (i.e., put this on the ballot and let the people decide). They refuse to respond to the argument that maybe it’s not a good idea to let people vote on whether minorities should have rights.
I grew up in the South in the ’60s and ’70s, so it’s not like I haven’t seen bigotry before. But Indiana does it better – they wrap it up in Midwestern “niceness” and “Hoosier values.” Here in Indiana, they don’t care if you’re gay – just don’t talk about it or let anyone else know.
Now hold the phone. Indiana has a strong red streak, but it went for Obama in 2008, too. Your reader’s comment about “niceness” was accurate. But look, Indiana is a complicated place like anywhere else, and I won’t stand for a DC/NYC-livin’ lovable elite like yourself broadstroking it as “hyper-conservative”.
I grew up in Indiana – Indianapolis, specifically. Indy is a word of difference from, say, Martinsville or Evansville, and Chicagoland Hoosiers would disown both in a heartbeat. Indianapolis is pretty blue, substantially more gay friendly than most the country, and has a a terrific liberal arts tradition. Indiana, though often still embarrassing to me, is in no way “hyper-conservative” in the same sense as the Western or Southern deep red states.