The U.S. Supreme
Court Friday may have given Indiana Republicans an early Christmas present when
it decided to hear the constitutionality of California's Prop 8, which would
ban same-sex marriage in the Golden State.
8, as it is known, was a ballot initiative that made same-sex marriage illegal
in California, however the measure was put on hold when the federal courts
ruled the measure served "no purpose and has no effect, other than to
lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California and to
officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of
the "marriage amendment" that lawmakers could vote on this upcoming
session, "Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be
valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or
substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not
be valid or recognized."
legal question surrounding Prop 8 is whether it violates the Equal Protection
clause of the Constitution. According to the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals, "Proposition 8 did nothing more than
lessen the status and dignity of gays and lesbians, and classify their
relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." The court found that "the people of
California, by using their initiative power to target a minority group and
withdraw the right to marry they once possessed under the California State
Constitution, violated the federal Constitution."
Another thing to think about is that
California's Prop 8 was a lot less complicated than Indiana's proposed
amendment. California's amendment said," Only marriage between a man and a
woman is valid or recognized in California." Indiana's gets a lot more
complicated because of the second part of the amendment as noted above, which
talks about a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of
marriage. No one has been able to tell me exactly what that means or what the
consequences of that language would be. Potentially that could be the political
equivalent of tap dancing in a legal minefield.
By agreeing to hear the case, Indiana
lawmakers who have not been crazy about the whole same-sex marriage issue can
make the argument that until the U.S. Supreme Court decides what's going to
happen it would probably be prudent to put the whole matter on hold until next
year. For a measure to get on the ballot to change the Indiana Constitution, it
must be passed by two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly, so it could
still come up in 2014.
If Indiana lawmakers are smart, they
will kick this can down the road and wait to see what happens. Going forward
now that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case would be the
equivalent of flying blind and nothing good can come of that.