What If They Held an Election, and Reasonable People Came?

This has been a pretty contentious session of the Indiana legislature, and one of the most divisive proposals has been the renewed effort to include a ban on same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution.

The amendment is really just a gratuitous effort to marginalize gay citizens, since we don’t have same-sex marriages in Indiana. Proponents want a vote on the issue, not because it is appropriate in our system to vote on other citizens’ fundamental rights–it isn’t–but in order to make clear that the majority of citizens in Indiana don’t like gay people.

They may be too late.

Indiana Equality Action recently commissioned a poll of Indiana citizens on attitudes toward the proposed amendment. The results were shocking–in a good way. Forty-seven percent of Indiana residents oppose the amendment, while 43% favor it. Even more surprising, 65% of self-described Republicans and conservatives opposed it, and 41% of seniors. More predictably, 67% of young voters opposed it.

I want to be clear: opposition to the amendment should not be equated with support for same-sex marriage. (The numbers show progress, but not that much progress!) However, there are plenty of compelling reasons to oppose constitutionalizing discrimination, even when you don’t particularly like the folks who are being singled out, and obviously those reasons have convinced a lot of people that this amendment is a bad idea. The poll also confirmed that Indiana citizens have much higher priorities than bashing gay people: the economy and jobs, education, the state budget, health care, crime and drugs, and taxes all came in well ahead of gay marriage.

Particularly interesting is how quickly attitudes on this issue have changed, even in staid, conservative Indiana.  Clearly that’s one of the reasons the usual suspects have been so desperate to get this amendment on the ballot–every year it is delayed, its prospects for passage dim further.

If the proposal passes this year, as expected, and if a separately elected legislature passes the identical language, it will go before the Indiana electorate for a vote. That means that voters first chance to weigh in on the issue will be nearly four years from now.

I wouldn’t want to bet on the outcome.