INDIANAPOLIS | House Democratic leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, has called on the sponsors of the marriage amendment to withdraw their proposal, so the House can get back to doing the people's business.
"We want the measure set aside," Pelath said Friday. "We're being sapped of our ability to do good things for Indiana because of this specter that's hovering over everyone."
The marriage amendment, House Joint Resolution 3, and its companion explanatory legislation, House Bill 1153, are eligible Monday for changes offered by any member of the Republican-controlled House. A majority must approve any proposed change.
A House vote to send the measures to the Senate could come as soon as Tuesday.
Any change to the amendment, which adds the state's existing ban on gay marriage to the Indiana Constitution, along with a second sentence, could restart the multiyear amendment process. The second sentence states, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
Pelath said he will file a proposed change striking the second sentence, which legal experts say could bar private companies and government employers from offering health benefits to employees' same-sex partners.
But Pelath hasn't decided whether he will ask the House to vote on his proposed change.
"We have a couple different paths that we can go," Pelath said. "The first is to extinguish the one obvious stink bomb of the second sentence, and if they're going insist on moving this thing forward, let's at least get that monstrous language out of there.
"The other approach is to consider simply letting HJR3 die under its own lumbering, brontosaurus-like weight."
He said the decision likely will come down to whether any House Republicans are brave enough to offer their own changes and publicly cross House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, who has championed the marriage amendment for a decade.
"The Democratic members don't have anything to fear from the speaker; they know that he probably wants them defeated at the next election," Pelath said. "When you get within a caucus it becomes a little bit more difficult, and when you begin to stray from the herd ... there's ways that speakers can achieve their goals."
Pelath said he's dismayed some Republicans who oppose the amendment are considering voting for it just to put the issue on the ballot. If the amendment is approved by the House and Senate this year, as it was in 2011, Hoosier voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to ratify or reject it.
"That's a cop-out. That's not the process," Pelath said. "The process is that the two independently elected legislatures do every bit of analysis that they possibly can. You don't just throw any idea that somebody has out to the voters."
On the other side of the Statehouse, Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, already is preparing to act on the amendment should it be approved Tuesday by the House.
He said it will be read a first time in the Senate on Thursday and heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee the week of Feb. 10. State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, is the sole region lawmaker and the top Democrat on that panel.
Long said the Senate "probably would honor" the House version, even if the proposed amendment is changed, but admitted senators have the power to change it back to the original version, which then would require another successful House vote to go on the ballot.