INDIANAPOLIS | House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, may take the extraordinary step of replacing members on the House Judiciary Committee to ensure the marriage amendment wins committee approval and gets a vote by the full House.
"I've said one person shouldn't make the decision; we've got to figure out if a couple people ought to make the decision for all Hoosiers," Bosma said. "The speaker, of course, has the power to move bills and has complete autonomy over committee membership."
The rules of the Republican-controlled Indiana House authorize the speaker to change a committee's membership at any time, though Bosma said he's never done it before to advance legislation, and he only could recall seeing it done once during his 28 years in the House.
"Our rules clearly provide for it," Bosma said. "Members serve at the pleasure of the speaker."
At least three of the nine Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are believed to be considering voting with the four committee Democrats against the marriage amendment, which would kill it.
State Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, the committee chairman, did not hold a vote as expected Monday following nearly four hours of expert and public testimony on the issue.
The earliest the committee can meet again is Wednesday. The deadline for House committee action is Jan. 28.
House Joint Resolution 3 would add the state's existing ban on gay marriage to the Indiana Constitution along with a sentence declaring, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
A companion measure, House Bill 1153, is intended to clarify that the second sentence does not prohibit businesses from providing benefits to their employees' same-sex partners or restrict equal access to public places. However, legal experts disagree on whether courts will take notice of that legislative intent.
If the proposed amendment is approved this year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, as it was in 2011, Hoosier voters will decide at the Nov. 4 general election whether to ratify or reject adding the amendment to the state Constitution.
Bosma said GOP polling shows four out of five Hoosiers want a chance to vote on the amendment, and he's determined to give it to them.