INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Republican legislative leaders are trying to downplay the proposed same-sex marriage ban amendment, blaming the media in part for stoking controversy on the issue.
At a preview of the upcoming 2014 session Monday, House Speaker Brian Bosma said the resolution to amend the state constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage and civil unions will consume an inordinate amount of media attention when legislators convene in early January.
“This is not the most important issue for us by far,” Bosma said. “It will receive 95 percent of the coverage and it will take 5 percent of the attention of the General Assembly.”
Bosma also said some GOP legislators who oppose the amendment have been “too public” in their opposition.
Bosma was echoing concerns from his legislative counterpart, Senate President David Long, who also said the measure, known as House Joint Resolution 6, or HJR6, “is not the most important issue facing Indiana.”
“It’s not,” Long said, at the event sponsored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a difficult vote to get through and deal with.”
Just how the General Assembly will deal with HJR6 remains to be seen. Neither Long nor Bosma offered much detail about how or when the resolution will be introduced in the 2014 session or whether GOP legislators, who make up a super-majority in both the House and Senate, will support its passage.
Both said they won’t dictate to their members how they should vote, but will insist that the debate on the resolution be civil.
“We can’t call people bigots or sinners or whatever,” Bosma said. “We have to deal with this and work though it together as Hoosiers and bring this 12-year discussion to a conclusion in one direction or the other.”
Same-sex marriage in Indiana is already illegal, but supporters of HJR6 want to lock it into the constitution. To do so, the measure has to be passed twice by the General Assembly and then approved by voters. Legislators voted in 2011 to support the ban; a second vote in the 2014 session would put the measure on the ballot next November.
Attention to the proposed amendment has increased significantly in recent months as opponents, funded by some of the state’s biggest employers, including Eli Lilly and Cummins, have mobilized resources and money. Opponents of HJR6, citing recent independent polls, say public opinion on same-sex marriage is rapidly changing.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson, who opposes HJR6, said he agrees with Bosma and Long on one aspect of the measure: “It’s not the most important issue,” Lanane said. “But it will be the most divisive.”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org