INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Republican Party's new platform makes no mention of same-sex marriage, even though GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence has sought a national ban in Congress and legislators have pushed to put a ban in the state constitution.
Indiana Democrats, meanwhile, will vote this weekend on a platform that includes taking a stance against the state constitutional amendment after being silent on the matter for the last several years, The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday.
Micah Clark, executive director of the conservative American Family Association of Indiana, which wants Indiana to have some type of ban in the constitution, said he was disappointed by Republicans' silence this year. The GOP platform has in recent years emphasized that marriage should be only between a man and a woman
"That kind of caught me off-guard," Clark said.
As a congressman, Pence voted to add a gay marriage ban into the U.S. Constitution. Democratic nominee John Gregg also opposes same-sex marriage and voted for a state ban when he was Indiana House speaker.
"It's unusual for a party to contradict their candidates at the top of the ticket," Clark said.
Indiana Republican Party spokesman Pete Seat downplayed the importance of the change in the state platform, which was approved during the party convention last weekend.
"A lot of issues are covered; a lot weren't," Seat said. "This platform reflects the broader priorities of the Indiana Republican Party."
In the past, Indiana Democratic leaders have tried to distance themselves from their national party on issues such as allowing gay marriage.
But Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said: "Opinion on this has dramatically changed since the Republican Party in Indiana started pushing for an amendment in 2004. We are taking a stand for the first time saying that the party is in opposition to amending the Indiana constitution. We do not think that it's necessary."
Aaron Schaler, leader of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats, an organization for gay Democrats, said he considered the platform change a victory.
"We're ecstatic that we're getting a stance against the amendment," he said. "We've never had that before."
The proposed Democratic platform, however, is at odds with some party members in the General Assembly. When the legislature voted in 2011 for an amendment banning same-sex marriage, 11 Democrats voted with 59 Republicans to approve it in the House, while three Democrats joined 37 Republicans to support it in the Senate.
The amendment must be approved again by the Legislature elected in November to be considered by voters in the fall 2014 election.
Kathy Saris, an Indianapolis restaurant owner and a lesbian who was on the GOP platform committee, said the platform change was "a big step" for her party.
She said the silence on same-sex marriage — coupled with the inclusion of a statement saying Republicans "embrace, encourage and will work to ensure the opportunity for full participation of ALL citizens in government" — will help the party reach out to younger Republicans.
"They view marriage as something that should be open to everybody," Saris said.