2014 Indiana General Assembly

Second round in marriage fight likely coming next year

2014-02-23T19:00:00Z 2014-02-24T14:41:05Z Second round in marriage fight likely coming next yearDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
February 23, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, intends to hold a second Senate vote on the marriage amendment next year to ensure it gets on the ballot in 2016.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 32-17 last week for House Joint Resolution 3, which would add the state's existing ban on gay marriage to the Indiana Constitution. The measure was approved 57-40 by the Republican-controlled House on Jan. 28.

Proposed amendments to the Indiana Constitution must be approved by two separately elected Legislatures to be sent to Hoosier voters for ratification or rejection.

Long's plan to take up the marriage amendment next year, following the Nov. 4 general election, gives him and other marriage amendment supporters two chances to again pass it through both chambers of the Legislature in 2015 or 2016.

"All four caucuses will decide what they want to do, but I suspect that it will come back and it will be on the ballot in 2016," Long said. "I think that's good, because in the end the people of Indiana need to weigh in on this."

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, did not share Long's enthusiasm for taking up the marriage fight so soon after losing a bruising battle over whether to put the marriage amendment lawmakers passed in 2011, which also banned civil unions, on the ballot this year.

Left unsaid by Long or Bosma is what happens if lawmakers vote in 2015 to put the marriage amendment on the 2016 ballot — but before Hoosiers vote, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down all state marriage amendments, as several federal district courts have done in individual states, including neighboring Kentucky.

The Indiana Constitution does not contain a provision for removing a Legislature-approved amendment from the ballot if the amendment is found to be invalid prior to the election.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he believes most Hoosiers want the issue to just go away.

"I think people are going to continue to question why it has to be enshrined in our state's highest document," Pelath said. "In my little part of LaPorte and Porter counties, attitudes have definitely changed — they don't think we should be amending the Constitution."

In one of several bizarre postscripts to the Indiana marriage debate, the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage announced last week it was considering legal action to force the marriage amendment on the ballot in 2014, and was looking for Hoosier lawmakers to help.

But that idea was too strident even for state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Indianapolis, whose Tea Party-fueled Twitter rant last weekend, accusing Long and others of sabotaging the marriage fight, led to an impotent Senate floor protest that saw Delph fail to get up when he had the chance to demand a vote on restoring the text of the 2011 amendment.

"While I respect and admire the National Organization on Marriage and its stance for traditional values, I do NOT support going to court," Delph tweeted Thursday. "The courts are not an appropriate branch to push a public policy agenda. Judicial activism of any type should not be encouraged."

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, backed down Friday and instead vowed to punish lawmakers who refused to support putting the marriage amendment on the ballot this year.

"While we believe a strong legal case can be made that the amendment could appear on the ballot this year, we think that the time and expense of such an effort would be better devoted to holding legislators accountable for their votes, and to preparing to elect a strong pro-amendment Legislature to pass the pending amendment in 2015," Brown said.

That stance conflicts with several Indiana-based family groups that worked hard for a public marriage vote this year. They've said the revised proposal limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples but not also barring like-marriage arrangements for same-sex couples is not worth fighting for.

As for Delph, his decision to tweet details of Senate Republican caucus discussions — which generally are confidential — prompted GOP Senate leadership to remove Delph as assistant majority floor leader for communications and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He also no longer has access to Senate press staffers, and his seat in the Senate was moved as far as possible from the other Republican members.

Delph's Twitter feed was unusually silent following the punishment except for a message thanking Republican Gov. Mike Pence for his encouragement.

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