Over the past week, Indiana’s senators debated a proposed consti-tutional ban on gay marriage extensively, going over the merits for hours at a time, before deciding a ban shouldn’t appear on the ballot in November. But their reasoning remains largely a mystery to the public, which heard from only one senator during public deliberations.
The gay marriage fight has illuminated one of the less-reported aspects of Indiana’s General Assembly: Debate on the toughest of issues often happens in private caucus meetings of state lawmakers, with much left unsaid in public.
The Senate’s decision not to debate the issue publicly — only Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, spoke publicly — leaves a cloak of secrecy that only makes residents more wary of politicians, said Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, which fought to get the ban placed on the ballot in November.
“I think it makes people more cynical of politics,” Clark said.
Supporters of the ban, House Joint Resolution 3, often felt like they were outgunned from the start, despite promises from legislative leaders the vote would go their way as it had in 2011. Indiana law requires constitutional amendments to pass two consecutive biennial sessions of the Legislature before being placed on a ballot.
Clark said the public was left on the sidelines this year as major campaign donors and businesses supporting Freedom Indiana, the umbrella group that successfully blocked the ban this year, claimed most of the spotlight.
“I think that further disenfranchises people and makes them think this is nothing but a political game in Indianapolis,” he said. “We worry about why people don’t vote, why they don’t get involved in the electoral process, why they don’t run for office — they think the system is rigged.”