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November 18, 2013

HOWEY: Marriage amendment roils Indiana GOP

JEFFERSONVILLE — With the constitutional marriage amendment looming just over the horizon, the Indiana Republican Party is hardly one happy family living in a big tent.

Multiple sources are telling me that a distinct majority of the Indiana Republican Central Committee opposes HJR-6, the resolution that would place the marriage constitutional question on the November 2014 ballot. That amendment would make marriage between “one man and one woman.” But the second sentence - - “Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized” - essentially would make civil unions impossible.

There’s this pesky 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.  No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In addition, there is a roiling debate in the majority House and Senate caucuses, sources tell me. While there is not a “tipping point” near where the issue could be sidelined, there is an ongoing, often emotional, internal debate over whether the GOP would suffer at the ballot box if the referendum moves forward.

Sources say that both House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long are under relentless pressure from advocates of the referendum and those opposing.

Gov. Mike Pence told me on Wednesday that he wants the General Assembly to act. “You know where I stand,” Pence said when asked whether it is a priority. “I think it’s important that we let Hoosiers decide. I have every confidence that the people of Indiana can take up this issue, hear all sides, respect all viewpoints. At the end of the day I think we should let Hoosiers decide and I’ll continue to support efforts of the General Assembly to send this question to the people of Indiana.”

The Ball State/WISH-TV Poll conducted by Princeton Research showed opposition to the amendment increased from 54 percent in 2012 to 58 percent this past month, while support held steady at 38%. Opposition was at 77% among Democrats and 40% among Republicans.

In the April 23 Howey Politics Poll, 50% favored the amendment and 46% opposed. This compared to an October 2012 Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll that showed 48% favored the amendment and 45% opposed.

Last June, Bosma told me, “It will take 95 percent of the energy and 50 percent of the coverage,” adding, “If I had my druthers, Part B would not be there. I think the first part is very clear. Part B raises a question.”

Sources say that Bosma is under intense pressure from referendum advocates such as Curt Smith, Micah Clark and Eric Miller from the family advocacy groups to pursue the final placement on the ballot.

But Republican Sens. Luke Kenley and Pete Miller, along with Reps. Ed Clere, Jud McMillin, Sean Eberhart and Ron Bacon have made public statements indicating they will not vote for HJR-6 during the 2013 session. There are at least a dozen other House Republicans, sources say, who are debating whether to support the measure again. Others are concerned about switching from a yea to no vote. The default position will likely be the “let the people decide” option.

Last week, Eberhart told the Shelbyville News that the second sentence in HJR-6 is essentially “bigotry.”

Rep. Bacon, R-Boonville, called the second sentence “a step too far” during the 2013 session. Rep. McMillin said during the 2013 session that it would be irresponsible to install an amendment to the Indiana Constitution when the U.S. Supreme Court could “rule on something that may alter our ability to do that.” The measure did not come up for a vote in that session.

Sen. Miller, R-Avon, added, “It’s already illegal. What’s to be gained other than ostracizing a whole section of the population? If we’re trying to attract the best and brightest people to work in Indiana, this doesn’t help.”

Society and parts of Indiana government are already beginning to comply with federal regulations regarding same-sex marriage. On Oct. 3, the Indiana National Guard began issuing identification cards to its members on orders from the Pentagon. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel identified Indiana as one of nine states that did not immediately comply with that order when it was to be instituted on Sept. 3. The Internal Revenue Service is also changing tax-related rulings on a federal level that states will ultimately have to recognize.

There are two scenarios emerging in the legislature. The mood within the Senate Majority Caucus is to deal with the issue in the opening days - if not hours - of the General Assembly, which commences Jan. 7. The second is to delay dealing with the issue until after the Feb. 10 primary filing deadline, when incumbents will learn if they have opponents in the May 6 primary.

Another option would be to delete the controversial second sentence, which essentially starts the entire process over again, putting off a potential referendum to 2016. Opponents of the referendum believe that public opinion will overwhelmingly shift against the measure by then.

— Brian Howey publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.  

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