Indiana could emerge as battleground for gay marriage ban
The Supreme Court made its ruling on two key gay marriage issues Wednesday, but the court of public opinion may be the real determining factor in the debate.
The high court voted down down a key provision of "DOMA" - the federal Defense of Marriage Act - which prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married, heterosexual couples.
The court also struck down California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage.
While gay marriage opponents are vowing to continue their fight, the court's decision was earning praise from diverse quarters - for different reasons.
Over 11,000 employees work at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. It is one of the state's largest employers and it has been on the forefront of the ongoing debate over gay marriage.
Greg Kueterman is the Director of Corporate Communications Government Affairs & Access at Eli Lilly.
"As we look for people who can help us cure Alzheimer's or diabetes, we want to make sure we get the best talent we can - people who feel regardless of background that they are welcome here," said Kueterman.
Lilly and Cummins Incorporated, headquartered in Columbus, have commended the Supreme Court for striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Oddly enough, the political right is just as enthusiastic - for different reasons.
Curt Smith is with the Indiana Family Institute. "It's actually a pretty strong states' rights ruling from a court not known for that," he said.
Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma issued a statement saying, "I am certainly pleased the Supreme Court has confirmed each state's right to address the legal issue of what constitutes one of the most important institutions in our society." His statement went on to add, "Hoosiers should have the right to speak on this issue."
And they might. The Speaker intends to reintroduce a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. If it passes out of both the House and the Senate it will go to the voters of Indiana in 2014.
David Orentlicher is the Samuel Rosen Professor of Law and Co Director of the Center for Law & Health at the Indiana School of Law.
"We saw that in the past where efforts to pass a constitutional amendment have been blocked because when large corporations come and said this is bad for the economy. That will be an important part of the debate," he said.
That could put Indiana in the national spotlight as the first post-Supreme Court ruling state to emerge as a battleground for the gay marriage debate, a possibility Governor Mike Pence embraces.
Pence issued a statement saying, "Now that the Supreme Court has had its say on the federal government's role in defining marriage, the people of Indiana should have their say about how marriage is understood and defined in our state."
Ultimately the nation's high court may be waiting for states to lead the way. Currently a dozen have done just that. But here in Indiana the debate is not about making gay marriage legal. It is already illegal by law. Now lawmakers want to make that part of the state's constitution, which gay rights advocates admit will make it extremely difficult to ever change.
That means the legislative session to come could be one for the ages.