Bosma, Long to let GOP caucuses decide HJR-6 referendum
Monday, November 18, 2013 3:28 PM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
Senate President David Long (foreground) and House Speaker Brian Bosma speak to reporters at the Indiana Chamber Legislative Preview Conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Indianapolis on Monday. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
INDIANAPOLIS - The decision on whether to place a Constitutional amendment on marriage on the ballot will not be made by House Speaker Brian Bosma or Senate President David Long, but by a majority of the 37 Republican senators and 69 GOP representatives next winter.
Both Bosma and Long said on Monday that they won't play the role of a "dictator" and either promote or kill HJR-6. If it passes the Indiana General Assembly by its March sine die, it will appear on the November 2014 ballot.
"I am not going to try and dictate this issue or bottle it up," said Long at the Indiana Chamber's Legislative Preview Conference. "This is going to be a call on the Senate side with the Republican caucus. In the Senate last time it passed 40-8 with bipartisan support. I think it's a pretty good assumption that it won't repeat with that margin. It will be an internal decision on our part based on collaborative discussion. I can tell you now there will be an awful lot of discussion."
Bosma explained, "I don't think that one person, one university president, or one person in the board room of a corporation should make this decision. It needs to be made by the elected representatives that are gathered together for the people. This is a tough one. We will decide it . . . collaboratively. There's not going to be a dictatorship in one direction. I know members of my caucus have strong feelings. Many of them have chosen to share them publicly or privately. We'll work through it."
Last week, Gov. Mike Pence told Howey Politics Indiana that he is prepared to push legislative Republicans to approve the referendum. Asked if is a priority, Pence explained, “I think it’s important that we let Hoosiers decide. I have every confidence that the people of Indiana can take up this issue, hear all sides, respect all viewpoints. At the end of the day I think we should let Hoosiers decide and I’ll continue to support efforts of the General Assembly to send this question to the people of Indiana.”
Only a handful a Senate and House Republicans have expressed reservations about the law, though multiple sources tell Howey Politics that both caucuses are debating the resolution vigorously. Sources also tell HPI that a majority of the Indiana Republican Central Committee is opposed to the amendment, fearful that it will impact GOP candidates in 2014 and 2016.
Both Long and Bosma have supported the amendment in past years, and as a congressman, Pence was a vigorous support of laws and Constitutional amendments that keep state recognized marriage between "one man and one woman." The biggest problem with HJR-6 is the second sentence, which reads, "Provides that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."
Despite that controversy, passage of HJR-6 in the upcoming legislative session is likely, given that Gov. Pence is likely to spend some behind-the-scenes political capital with the sizable social conservative elements in both caucuses to get it on the ballot in 2014, and not in 2016 when he will seek reelection. A number of polls have shown HJR-6 losing support from voters, including a Ball State/WISH-TV poll released last week that had 58% opposing the measure and just 38% supporting. A September Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research Poll conducted for the Indiana Family Institute had almost opposite numbers, with 62% backing the measure and 33% opposing. A Howey Politics Indiana Poll released last April showed 50% supporting the amendment and 46% opposing.
The second HRJ-6 sentence would prevent any type of civil unions from becoming law. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said, "We ought not put forth a piece of flawed legislation and this is. Not only would it enshrine in our constitution and ban on gay marriage, it wouldn't allow the legislation of a civil union. For many people, they view that as … we don't want to use words like 'bigot' but perhaps radical and intolerable."
Earlier, Bosma had said, "This is an issue that is personal to people. It is a religious belief for some. It is a family member for another. It's a business decision for others. We have to deal the issue with dignity and respect for opposing viewpoints. We can't call people bigots or sinners, or whatever. We have to deal with this together and bring this 12 year discussion to a conclusion in one direction or another."
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, recounted the three times he helped stave off a constitutional amendment. "I'm glad we did that," Pelath said. "It's given the state time for reflection. I hope they consider waiting another year."
Both Bosma and Long issued a "caveat" saying that it isn't the most important issue facing Indiana with a jobless rate that been above 8% and the national average for close to two years, with a population that has declining personal per capita income and an array of health trends that are far below the national average. "One caveat to this," said Long, R-Fort Wayne, "This is not the most important issue facing Indiana, OK? The most important issues are jobs and the economy and education and economic development. Those will be the most critical this session and sessions to come."