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January 21, 2014

Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee

INDIANAPOLIS — Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.

Bosma announced the House Elections and Apportionment Committee will consider the proposed ban after it stalled in the House Judiciary Committee last week and Bosma threatened to substitute that panel’s members in order to advance the measure.

“It was made at the request of the overwhelming majority of the House Republican Caucus and the request of the committee chairman in judiciary,” Bosma said Tuesday. “He (the chairman) didn’t feel the bill would come to the floor, he knew that was the goal of an overwhelming number of the House members and thought it was best if it went to [the] elections [committee].”

Bosma added that it’s “common procedure” to move bills between committees.

The House elections committee is scheduled to hold a hearing this afternoon on the proposed ban and a companion measure, and then vote.

Bosma had promised publicly to let the ban run a normal course in the Legislature, but has recently taken a more forceful role in advancing it amid concerns it wouldn’t reach the House floor. The House elections panel includes more conservative lawmakers than does the judiciary panel, including at least one Democrat who has said he would support a ban.

Opponents of the amendment, led by the group Freedom Indiana, said Bosma broke his promise that the proposed ban would be treated the same as the dozens of other bills lawmakers take up each year.

“We’ve followed the legislative process with an earnest expectation that legislators truly seek to represent their constituents,” Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson said in a statement. “We found that to be the case with the legislators serving on the House Judiciary Committee, but House Speaker Brian Bosma broke his commitment to Hoosiers to uphold the traditional legislative process.”

Opponents, including top businesses and universities, have said the bill is unnecessary because state law already bans same-sex marriage. They say adding the language to the constitution would paint Indiana as an unfriendly place and deter businesses from moving to the state.

The Judiciary Committee held a long hearing last week on the measure, but delayed a vote. That’s another indication of how much the ground has shifted on the issue since 2011, when the amendment passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support. The measure must pass the Legislature again this year in order to appear on the November ballot.

Bosma conceded last week that if the bill advanced to the full House, it would be a narrow decision.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Bosma’s tactics with this bill are unusual.

“This is the problem with the proposed amendment: It is consuming all of our attention and all of our energies and it is the kind of thing that results in unorthodox maneuvers,” he said. “I wish we could have a return to normalcy.”

The battle over the proposal has caused some lawmakers to say they will change course and oppose the ban. Republican Gov. Mike Pence asked lawmakers to vote on the issue this year during his State of the State address last week.

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