The definition of marriage, and more specifically, which two persons may be legally married, is a complex and contentious topic. It is religious, social, and psychological as much as it legal. The legal system is often the default when there is no other way an issue will be resolved, such as Roe v. Wade.
The traditional notion of a family in our modern culture consists of a mother, who has children with the father during the course of the marriage, and two children. However, census and social data indicate this is slowly become more of an exception than the norm. However, marriage or legal tie between two persons of the same sex continues to be an issue of debate nationwide.
In Indiana, which is generally viewed as conservative, marriage is defined by statute as between a man and a woman only1. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Indiana. However, where two people of the same sex have cohabitated and split up, other legal theories, such as partnership and contract law, have been used to divide property.
Recently, two (2) cases were accepted by the Supreme Court of the United States addressing the issue of same-sex marriage2. The outcome of these two (2) cases may create a need for states to reexamine their laws/statutes regarding the definition of marriage. That is, SCOTUS has issued some unexpected opinions, such as affirming the health care bill in full, and the decisions in these cases may dictate a change in Indiana law.
Recently, an amendment to the Indiana Constitution was proposed which would define marriage between one man and one woman. This proposal also states that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized”3.
With the pending Supreme Court Cases, the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution has essentially been placed on hold to await the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. This will allow time for the Indiana Legislature to be sure that any amendment to the state constitution is in line with the federal Supreme Court’s decisions. If state bans (like the one in California under review) are outlawed, moving forward now to amend the Indiana Constitution would cause future headaches and potentially create direct conflict between the Indiana Constitution and United States Constitution.
Due to the timing needed for legislation, the issue of the proposed constitutional amendment has been postponed until next year, 2014. This will allow time for the Supreme Court’s ruling(s) and Indiana’s legislative process moving forward.
Whether the state constitutional amendment will reach the voters is an issue to be determined. However, at least for now, the amendment is on pause, pending a decision from the Supreme Court. A US Supreme Court case mandating a constitutional right to civil union would dramatically change virtually everything from health insurance to retirement accounts and how these rights are apportioned.
We hope that this post has been helpful in exploring upcoming possible legislation in Indiana. The changing tide of families continues to shift, and the future is unknown. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.