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Same-Sex Marriage Fight Dominated 2014 Legislative Session

Whether to amendment Indiana's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman was the main issue debated in the 2014 session.

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Photo: ElectraSteph (Flickr)

Freedom Indiana members opposed to HJR-3 packed the statehouse whenever lawmakers considered the amendment.

Despite Gov. Mike Pence’s plea in his State of the State address to end the debate over HJR-3 quickly, it dominated the legislative session.

The proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage overwhelmingly passed the legislature in 2011.

It was an easy measure to support for Republicans and many Democrats.

But leading up to the 2014 session, Republican leaders including  Senate President Pro Tem David Long downplayed the issue’s significance.

“This is not the most important issue facing Indiana, okay? It is not. This is a difficult vote we’re going to have to get through and deal with,” he said.

But House Minority Leader Scott Pelath called on Republican leadership to get rid of the amendment, saying the divisive debate would harm the state and the legislative process.

“We’re just being sapped of our ability to do good things for Indiana because of the specter that’s hovering over everyone,” he said.

Still, Speaker Brian Bosma pledged to bring the issue to the floor, and though HJR-3 arrived before the full House with two sentences, it left with one.

Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, said the measure’s second sentence, which banned civil unions, had too many other potential consequences.

“If we cannot understand in this body exactly what that second sentence means, how can we expect millions of Hoosiers to understand what it means when they go to the polls in November?” he said.

Governor Mike Pence pressed Senate lawmakers to reinsert the second sentence, ensuring the measure would reach the ballot in 2014.  But the Senate passed the amendment with only its first sentence, restarting the ratification process.

Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson, whose coalition helped rally support against HJR-3, declared  victory.

“I think the appetite around here to continue this conversation again is just not there. I think most folks are hoping that this actually goes away and they don’t have to deal with it again,” she said.

Long says he plans on dealing with the amendment in the next couple of years.

“I suspect that it will come back and it will be on the ballot in 2016, and I think that’s good because I do think, in the end, the people of Indiana need to weigh in on this,” he said.

The legislature must approve the measure in its 2015 or 2016 session for HJR-3 to go on the ballot in 2016.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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