INDIANAPOLIS | Apparently forgetting Ronald Reagan's political axiom, "If you're explaining, you're losing," the Republican leaders of the Indiana House and Senate are hoping two and a half pages of explanation can make their two-sentence marriage amendment more palatable.
Statehouse Democrats aren't buying it.
"They've got some sort of a monster they've created and now they're trying to dress up, or make the monster a little prettier," said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.
"It's still discrimination; it still says certain people in the state of Indiana cannot enjoy the rights everybody else has."
On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on House Joint Resolution 3, a proposed amendment enshrining the state's existing ban on gay marriage in the Indiana Constitution and declaring that, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
House Bill 1153, which will be reviewed alongside the proposed amendment, attempts to clarify the meaning of that sentence by listing all the things lawmakers don't think it should apply to, including employer benefits for domestic partners, equal access to public places, contract law and domestic violence enforcement, among others.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, said she thinks it's "pretty audacious" for legislators to interpret the amendment for the judges and justices who will have to square existing law with the constitutional change, if it is approved by the General Assembly and by Hoosier voters in November.
"That's certainly a violation of separation of powers," Tallian said. "We don't do that. Any constitutional amendment should be clear enough to not have this."
Former House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and plans to vote against both measures, said he thinks the companion legislation to the marriage amendment hints at a guilty conscience among Republican supporters of the amendment.
"That's really showing the weakness in their resolve," Bauer said. "It's ridiculous, to tell you the truth, to think that they have to explain it."