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Gay marriage amendment waste of state’s efforts

Republican Statehouse leaders weren’t talking this week about their closed meetings to discuss a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. When they finally do, they should say they won’t support efforts to approve House Joint Resolution 6 and send it to a statewide referendum. The long, contentious and expensive battle it poses is a distraction Indiana can’t afford.

Hoosiers’ economic needs far outweigh the divisive social-issue battles. In light of continuing moderation and a realization – noted even by Pope Francis in reference to the Catholic faith – that such issues must not dominate the discussion, the General Assembly should move on. It does not need to be an endorsement of same-sex marriage; state law already prohibits same-sex marriage. Skipping this fight simply recognizes that preoccupation with that topic and others neglects other pressing needs.

In Indiana’s case, the attention created by a constitutional amendment does nothing to make the state a better place for struggling Hoosiers. Unfortunately, legislative leaders continue to pander to figures such as Eric Miller, whose Advance America survey of where lawmakers stand on the proposed resolution amounts to a simple threat. Miller’s faith-based group has been known to call on clergy to rally church members for or against legislation, often with bad information about bills.

Meanwhile, a poll released by Freedom Indiana, a bipartisan coalition opposed to the resolution, shows 64 percent of Hoosiers believe amending the constitution is not the right way to deal with the marriage issue.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long avoided reporters Tuesday, issuing a news release that indicated no decision had been made in a caucus meeting held the day before the deadline Miller set for responding to his survey.

“Today’s meeting was an informational opportunity to discuss all viewpoints and obtain more information on many issues that we’ll address this session, but no final decisions were ultimately made,” Long said in a news release. “By tradition our caucuses are private and we’ll keep our conversation confidential out of respect to our members, but we had a great discussion and I look forward to a productive session for all Hoosiers.”

But House Speaker Brian Bosma told the Indianapolis Star that the issue “should be in (the) hands of the elected representatives and ultimately, the people,” regardless of poll results.

Bosma’s comment suggests his own caucus is moving ahead with efforts to rewrite the constitution. A statewide referendum, however, ultimately represents lawmakers’ unwillingness to do what is right for the state and avoid a costly and divisive fight.

As its legislative leaders continue to dodge responsibility, Indiana falls further behind the economic and societal progress other states are enjoying – not to mention on the wrong side of history. It’s time to publicly reject the proposed resolution and move forward on issues that truly help all Hoosiers.