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May 21, 2014

Indiana GOP debates gay marriage again

Platform proposal offered by Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp

INDIANAPOLIS — As lawmakers continue pushing to ban gay weddings under the Indiana Constitution, state Republicans are debating whether to define marriage as between a man and a woman — a clause removed from the party platform two years ago.

The Indiana GOP’s platform committee this week voted to reinsert the language in the document, which serves as an official statement of the party’s values and typically includes sweeping statements such as support for fiscal responsibility.

The last platform approved at the party’s 2012 convention did not address gay marriage. But when Republican delegates gather in Fort Wayne next month, they’ll have to decide the party’s official position.

Republican delegate Megan Robertson said the fight is divisive. Robertson, who led the lobbying campaign against a proposed marriage ban this year, said the issue “drives a wedge” in the party.

“This is an issue where there are a variety of opinions within the Republican Party so the platform should not take sides on that,” she said.

Robertson is counting on a battle at the convention when the roughly 1,700 delegates are asked to take up the measure.

Terre Haute lawyer Jim Bopp, perhaps best known for his national efforts to fight campaign finance limits, offered the proposal last week at a meeting of the party’s platform committee. He noted that the language had been in the state party platform through 2010 but was somehow removed in 2012, the last time the platform was altered.

Members of the platform committee, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Indianapolis City-County Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillen, met throughout the state in the last few months to draft the party’s 2014 platform. They held their final meeting in Indianapolis Monday and approved the marriage language. It also recognizes that other families make valuable contributions to society.

“I think it answered some of the criticisms of the original amendment, that it implied we were criticizing other family’s formations,” Bopp said. “I never felt that we were.”

Bopp said he’s not expecting a battle at the convention because the new compromise language assuaged many concerns. He noted that many Republicans already support limiting marriage to being between one man and one woman.

The fight comes just a few months after state lawmakers battled over the issue at the Statehouse. Opponents of gay marriage proposed adding the state’s existing ban to the state constitution by placing it on the November ballot for consideration by voters.

But state lawmakers altered the proposed ban, re-setting the clock on Indiana’s lengthy constitutional amendment process and making 2016 the soonest voters may see the issue on the ballot. Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said at the time that he and many other lawmakers expected the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue, making any state action likely moot.

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