More than two decades ago, Bloomington resident Philip Cooper’s daughter left Indiana after graduating high school.
She’s been back for visits since then, but moving back for good? She told her father that it would be uncomfortable.
“Isn’t that sad?” Cooper says. “That the climate here makes anyone, in this case my daughter, uncomfortable to have to come back. That’s not the world we want to have for anyone.”
Cooper’s daughter is a lesbian and because of her, he’s made several trips to the statehouse in the last few weeks to join the protests against House Joint Resolution 3, the proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Before the Senate heard the measure Thursday, Cooper said he was thinking about leaving the state if it was voted into the state constitution.
“I will choose not to live in an environment myself where every person I look at I have to think did you vote against my daughter or did you vote for her,” Cooper said with tears in his eyes. “I won’t do that.”
But Cooper won’t leave the state now – at least not this year.
Last month, the House amended the measure to remove the second sentence, which would have banned civil unions, and restart the ratification process.
The Senate on Thursday could have reinserted the second sentence but didn’t, meaning the amendment cannot go on the ballot this year.
But if the legislature passes the amendment either next year or the year after that, it would go on the 2016 ballot.
Changing Public Opinion, Voter Demographics Could Affect HJR-3
Indiana University political science professor Marjorie Hershey says a lot can happen in two years, but there are definite trends when it comes to same-sex marriage.
“One of things that has been most remarkable is there’s been a tremendously fast change in public opinion about same-sex marriage,” Hershey says. “Ten years ago there were no states that legalized same-sex marriage. Now it’s 17 plus another two that are in the process. This is really unusual. It suggests a change in public opinion that means the longer people wait for this constitutional amendment, the less likely public opinion will support it.”
The chances the amendment would pass in 2016 are also lower because of who’s likely to vote in that election.
“In a presidential election we find younger voters more likely to turn out and also a more diverse electorate in terms of race and ethnicity,” Hershey says. “That means that an amendment like this is going to do better in a midterm year than it is going to do in a presidential year.”
And a lot depends a lot on the groups campaigning for and against amending the state’s constitution.
Thursday was a victory for the bi-partisan coalition called Freedom Indiana, which spent months recruiting high-profile companies and universities and filling the statehouse with protestors every time the bill comes up for a vote.
Standing in the midst of a crowd of HJR-3 opponents after the Senate session, Sen. Minority Leader Tim Lanane praised Freedom Indiana’s efforts.
“A constitution is not about the past, it’s about the future, and a constitution is about how we accept all Hoosiers who have the right to a pursuit of happiness in this great state of ours,” he said.
But the fight isn’t over.
Just this past week, a group called Young Hoosiers for Marriage called a press conference for its launch at the statehouse, saying Freedom Indiana did not represent all young people in the state.
“The primary reason the government is in the marriage business, or why we have marriage laws, is because the government has an interest in protecting children and ensuring that, whenever possible, they can have both a mom and dad in their life,” said Young Hoosiers for Marriage member Sarah Hill.
The Young Hoosiers for Marriage and other HJR-3 supporters have said they are going to keep pushing for the amendment’s passage.
On the other side, Freedom Indiana has also vowed to keep fighting all the way to 2016.