Indiana's legislative leaders casted doubt Thursday on the prospects of taking up a gay marriage ban this year by saying they needed to poll their caucus members and noting the issue is before the nation's highest court.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma, both Republicans, said they expect to make a final decision after consulting with their respective caucuses next week. Both preside over GOP super-majorities.
"I've said a few times that personally it's inadvisable to move forward with the United States Supreme Court having the question before it, but I'm not making that decision by myself," Bosma said.
Long added that he has asked state lawyers to review how the pending cases before the high court could affect Indiana. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in March in two cases involving gay marriage.
"I think we'll have an answer by next week," Long said. "Our caucus has yet to sit down as a group and talk about it. And that's been purposeful, we have other critical issues to address and we want to put our focus on that, but the time is coming to come to a decision on that."
Their comments follow reports from the Evansville Courier and Press that a majority of lawmakers on the House and Senate judiciary committees want to wait a year before taking up the issue.
Under the state's constitutional amendment process, lawmakers have until next year to consider putting the marriage ban before voters. State law already limits marriage to being between one man and one woman, but supporters of writing the ban into the Indiana Constitution have said a judge could approve gay marriage by overturning state law.
The first case before the Supreme Court involves California's constitutional amendment that forbids same-sex marriage. The second concerns a federal law that denies gay couples who legally marry the right to obtain federal benefits available to heterosexual married couples.
Gay marriage is currently allowed in nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington — and the District of Columbia. It is banned by constitution in 30 states.