A pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage issued Wednesday quickly re-set the stage for a Statehouse battle over writing Indiana's ban into the constitution.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, quickly said the General Assembly would take up the ban next session, possibly putting the question to voters in 2014. The Supreme Court struck down a ban on federal benefits for same-sex couples and effectively dismissed a ban in California, but left untouched state laws limiting marriage to being between one man and one woman.
"The members of the General Assembly will be fully equipped to address the issue of the constitutional amendment in the coming legislative session, and with today's decision, I am confident the matter will come before the General Assembly and ultimately be placed on a referenda ballot for voter consideration," Bosma said in a statement.
Voters will not decide whether gay marriage is legalized in Indiana, however, only whether the state's existing ban is solidified in the constitution.
Gov. Mike Pence, weighing in on the issue for the first time as governor, said he supports a stronger ban.
"I believe marriage is the union between a man and a woman and is a unique institution worth defending in our state and nation. For thousands of years, marriage has served as the glue that holds families and societies together and so it should ever be," Pence said.
Gay marriage opponents in Indiana had sought to vote on a constitutional ban this year, but Long and Bosma chose to wait for the court's rulings. The battle is now on, opponents and supporters said.
"We hope (lawmakers) will forsake HJR6 (the ban), but we are preparing to launch a grassroots educational outreach campaign opposing the amendment should they pursue its passage," Indiana Equality Action President Chris Paulsen said Wednesday.
American Family Association of Indiana and other groups will be lining up on the other side.
"The Supreme Court's decision in no way took this important issue away from Indiana," said Executive Director Micah Clark. "The future of marriage matters, and it belongs in the hands of Hoosier voters, not the courts, not Hollywood, and not the activists seeking to change it from what it is and always has been - the union of a man and a woman."
National public opinion has swung sharply on the issue of gay marriage in the last decade, but it's not clear whether there has been much movement in Indiana. A poll conducted by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs for WISH-TV last December found that a majority of voters opposed amending the state's ban into the constitution, but were evenly split on the question of whether gay marriage should be legal.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he is counting on that shifting tide to carry his argument against the ban inside the Statehouse and outside, if the ban makes its way onto the ballot.
"For those who are under 40 years old, this is not even a debate," Pelath said.