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The wisdom in waiting


The value of having two attorneys as leaders of the Indiana General Assembly was never so clear as when Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma announced last week that a vote to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage won’t happen this session.

“We could find ourselves in the very inadvisable situation of having a matter on the ballot in 2014 that has been ruled unconstitutional and there is no means of removing it from the ballot,” Bosma said. His reference was to a case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges states’ authority to define marriage.

The General Assembly already has passed a law banning same-sex marriage; the proposed resolution is the second step in a wrong-headed effort to write it into the state constitution. Approved in the last session of the legislature, it requires a second vote by a separately elected group of lawmakers. The final step is voter approval in a statewide referendum – in November 2014, at the earliest.

“We think it’s prudent to wait,” said Long, a Fort Wayne Republican.

Indeed. The legal challenge is ample reason to avoid the unwelcome and unnecessary fight. In choosing not to call the resolution for a vote, Bosma and Long acknowledge not only the practical implications of proceeding, but also the distraction the issue represents. As Indiana struggles to attract good-paying jobs, it is hampered by discussion over the contentious social issue. The state’s universities and major employers are on record as opposed to the measure.

“This resolution sends a powerful message that Indiana is not a place that welcomes people of all backgrounds, and it jeopardizes our ability to be competitive in global markets,” a Cummins Engine vice president told lawmakers in 2011.

The legislative leaders’ decision is a reassuring sign that priorities are in proper order. Public opinion on same-sex marriage is quickly shifting, as a recent Ball State University opinion poll showed. Another year isn’t likely to settle the issue, but it’s a year that lawmakers can use to focus on creating a better working environment for Hoosiers instead of engaging in a divisive social battle.

Bosma and Long deserve our thanks for recognizing their obligation to uphold the constitution and to exercise sound leadership. Well done.