INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's legislative leaders are trying a different approach in again proposing a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced last week that lawmakers would consider the proposed amendment, unchanged from what the General Assembly first passed in 2011. If approved a second time, it would go to a public vote in November. But it first must clear the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to take up the issue Monday morning.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, delayed his involvement when he announced the House would have to take up the issue first. (The success of the amendment in the Indiana House is hardly guaranteed.) So, Bosma made the first move, but instead of simply submitting the amendment, he added that lawmakers would look at a companion bill clarifying the meaning of the second sentence in the amendment.
The first sentence of the proposal limits marriage to being between one man and one woman. But the second sentence — expanding that ban to anything similar to marriage, most likely meant to address civil unions — has roiled many lawmakers, including some who voted for the amendment in 2011.
"I think it's very advisable to have an expression of legislative intent that accompanies HJR 3 (the proposed amendment)," Bosma said last week. "There are valid questions raised about the second sentence of the amendment.
"It seemed to make a lot of sense to address the issues, but still make it quite clear that civil unions are not allowed — which is the substantially similar or identical language to marriage — and define it as a man and a woman, but remove these concerns people validly are raising in most cases."
A sort of parlor game developed in Indiana political circles to see how Bosma would handle the dilemma. Would he push the amendment as worded in 2011? Would he propose a more limited ban? Or would he ditch the fight altogether?
Bosma and House Republicans face incredible pressure from social and religious conservatives pushing the expansive ban. The team has also felt heat from business interests and moderate Republicans, who are worried the amendment could create a bad image for the state amid shifting national attitudes.
In the Old Testament account of Solomon, two women came before the king with one baby, both claiming it was theirs. With no clear way to discern who the mother was, Solomon proposed physically cutting the baby in half so he could ascertain from their reactions who was the true mother.
When Bosma unveiled his marriage plan last week, reactions from supporters and opponents gave a pretty clear indication who won.
Curt Smith, president of the conservative Indiana Family Institute, proclaimed the pairing a good move.
"We applaud the introduction of HJR 3 and its companion bill, HB 1153, before the Indiana General Assembly," Smith said in a statement. "Both the proposed resolution and the companion bill make a valuable contribution to promoting a marriage culture in Indiana. And as we all know, children benefit the most from a culture of marriage. Kids need both a mom and a dad."
But Freedom Indiana, a coalition that advocates against the measure and represents some of the state's largest businesses and universities, blasted the tactic.
"Unfortunately, instead of addressing the amendment's defects through proper channels, they're trying to sidestep and obfuscate the process by introducing a bill they think explains away the potential harm to Hoosier families," Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson said in a statement.
Monday will be the first test of whether Bosma's intended audience — the members of his own legislative caucus — believe the companion bill was a good idea. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear a few hours of testimony on the proposed ban and then vote on the proposed amendment and legislation.