INDIANAPOLIS | The state's most powerful business organization is planning to sit out the expected 2014 battle over whether to add Indiana's existing ban on gay marriage and civil unions to the state Constitution.
Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, told The Times Monday that barring exceptional action later this year by the group's board of directors, the chamber will remain neutral on the marriage amendment.
"We have members on both sides of the issue, so we have not adopted a position either in favor or opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment," Brinegar said. "I don't see that changing."
Several major Indiana employers, including Columbus-based engine manufacturer Cummins Inc., and Eli Lilly and Co., the Indianapolis drug maker, strongly oppose the pending amendment, because they believe it will be harder to attract workers if Indiana is perceived as unwelcoming.
Republican leaders supporting the amendment, including Gov. Mike Pence; House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis; and Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, argue that many of the fastest-growing states for businesses ban gay marriage in their constitutions and haven't been hurt by it.
The dictates of the chamber, which routinely lobbies lawmakers on business, education and public health issues, are well-followed inside the limestone walls of the Republican-controlled Statehouse.
During the January-April 2013 legislative session, 69 of 100 representatives and 39 of 50 senators voted the chamber's position on pending legislation at least 70 percent of the time.
The amendment battle is set to play out in two stages next year. The General Assembly first must approve the amendment during its January-March 2014 session for it to go on the Nov. 4, 2014, general election ballot for ratification by Hoosier voters.
Recent public opinion polls have found a majority of Hoosiers oppose changing the state's Constitution to prohibit gay marriage and civil unions.