Alexandra DeSanctis, Associate Politics and Economics Editor


Earlier this month Indiana State Representative Eric Turner proposed the Marriage Protection Amendment, a measure that would solidify traditional marriage in the state of Indiana. The constitutional amendment would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman within Indiana in an act contrary to the recent trend of states recognizing same-sex marriage within their borders.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage, while 33 states have defined marriage traditionally, either by statute or through constitutional amendments. Currently, Indiana has a ban on same-sex marriage by statute only. The Indiana House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the marriage amendment on January 13, but the committee recessed without taking a vote. The measure was then assigned to the House Elections Committee, which passed the amendment along to be voted on in the full House on January 22.

The amendment was first introduced in 2011 and approved by Indiana’s General Assembly; now both houses must approve it a second time in order for the amendment to be voted on by the people of Indiana in November.

Notre Dame Law Professor Gerard Bradley believes that if the amendment makes it onto the Indiana ballot in November, the results will be too close to predict. “It will be quite a contest,” Bradley said, “with both sides of the marriage debate sensing that Indiana is a bellwether state on this.”

The proposed amendment would constitutionally define marriage as between one man and one woman and add that “a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.” This second provision has received much criticism from those who claim that same-sex marriage recognition is necessary for the state’s economy.

Critics of the amendment have argued that prohibiting same-sex marriage could lead to the repeal of anti-discrimination laws and prevent private companies from providing domestic partner benefits. Indiana lawmakers, however, say these concerns are addressed by Turner’s additional measure, House Bill 1153, which explains the legislature’s intent. This companion bill articulates that the General Assembly does not intend to interfere with employer benefits arrangements or restrict equal access to education, employment or public places.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, has expressed his support for the amendment and urged the House to move to a vote. He stated that the debate ought to be resolved “once and for all” this year to allow Indiana voters to have their say come November.

Across the country, court cases triggered by last summer’s US v. Windsor Supreme Court decision have brought the marriage controversy to the front of the news cycle. In this past month alone, two federal judges have ruled that decisions in both Oklahoma and Utah to define marriage traditionally are unconstitutional.

The ruling in Windsor, however, did not assert that states must permit same-sex marriage, but rather stated that the federal government must legally recognize same-sex unions permitted by individual states. For this reason, Bradley believes the Supreme Court decision in Windsor does not provide enough legal basis to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage.

In a letter to the Indiana House of Representatives Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, Bradley stated, “Windsor…provides no reason to oppose the proposed Indiana amendment, or even to shelve it while we wait-and-see what happens next in the courts.”

Bradley continued to address the use of the court case in invalidating state amendments and statutes. “It is true that a federal district judge in Utah recently relied upon Windsor to strike down traditional marriage laws in that state,” Bradley conceded. “But that court’s decision obviously runs contrary to the Windsor Court’s oft-repeated affirmations of state sovereignty…” Bradley’s letter articulates to Bosma that Indiana’s Marriage Protection Amendment does not contradict the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor and therefore can—and should—be passed.

Theodora Hannan, a Notre Dame student from Indiana, commented on the proposed amendment, particularly noting the decades-long struggle of the overall LGBTQ community. “I’m pleased 17 states and DC currently allow same-sex marriage,” Hannan asserted. “I wish Indiana was included in the list, and that the nation at large believed that queer people deserve the same rights and protections as every other citizen.”

Tiernan Kane, an Indiana native and PhD political science student at Notre Dame, offered his perspective on the amendment as it relates to the needs of children. “Central to the public purpose of marriage, as distinguished from its sacred or private purpose, is protecting the right of each child to the care of his or her mother and father,” he stated. “Indiana’s move to preserve the orientation of this public institution toward the interests of children seems to be what justice demands in a society that so often neglects them.”

The future of marriage in the US remains uncertain amidst questions of federal sovereignty and states’ rights, and the tension in Indiana over the Marriage Protection Amendment exemplifies the debate that is taking place across the country.

Alexandra DeSanctis is a sophomore political science major who has seen the movie Frozen an embarrassing number of times. To discuss your favorite movies, email her at