Donnelly changes course, supports "marriage equality for all"

Apr 5, 2013

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly Friday publicly announced his support of same-sex marriage, saying he changed his position in light of recent Supreme Court arguments and public discussion.

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana)

In a statement released on his Facebook page, Senator Joe Donnelly said he opposes amending both the Indiana and U.S. constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. 

“In recent years, our country has been involved in an important discussion on the issue of marriage equality. While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans. I voted to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and was an original supporter of the bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. It is also for that reason that I oppose amending either Indiana’s or our nation’s constitution to enshrine in those documents an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ instead of a ‘we.’ With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.”

Wally Paynter is the president of the Tri-State Alliance, an Evansville-based lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender support organization.  He says Donnelly’s support of same-sex marriage could help boost the cause in the General Assembly.

“I think he’s giving cover for other moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans to come out in favor of equality and in favor of same-sex marriage.”

But American Family Association of Indiana executive director Micah Clark says Donnelly’s support won’t change the minds of Hoosiers.

“There are many Democrats, particularly in Indiana and southern Indiana, who still understand that marriage is between a man and a woman.  So I think the issue could backfire because Donnelly’s position will be a wedge between he and the moderate base.”

If the General Assembly passes a proposed amendment next session banning same-sex marriage, it will go on the ballot in fall of 2014 for all Hoosiers to decide. Legislative leaders postponed a vote this session to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue.