News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News Columns

January 5, 2014

MAUREEN HAYDEN: Conservative fight against constitutional amendment

An activist pushes for return to ‘small government,’ even on social issues

INDIANAPOLIS — Megan Robertson grew up in a Democratic family in a heavily Democratic area known as “the region” for its proximity to Chicago. But when she went off to college at a private, Christian university in Anderson, her first political science course helped her discover her true identity — as a small-government Republican, as she puts it, who believes in personal liberty and freedom.

Over the next decade, Robertson earned the political chops to call herself a Republican activist. She served as precinct committeewoman, chaired a GOP ward, ran two successful Republican mayoral campaigns, organized campaign rallies for Tea Party icon Sarah Palin, and served as spokeswoman for a conservative Indiana congressman.

Now, she's tapping into those experiences to lead the fight against Indiana’s proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions — despite the fact that many of her party’s conservative leaders support it.

At 31, Robertson is the campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, a statewide organization seeking to stop the Legislature from putting the amendment to voters on the November 2014 ballot.

“I’m a Republican because I’m for small government,” Robertson told me, repeating the argument she hopes will appeal to Republicans who control the Statehouse. “Amending our Constitution for a social policy doesn’t make sense from a conservative Republican view, in my opinion. Obviously, some people feel differently.”

The “some people” include Republican Gov. Mike Pence, an avowed defender of what he calls “traditional marriage.” They include GOP legislative leaders who steered the amendment through passage two years ago, in the first of a three-step process required to amend the state Constitution.

And they include the influential Indiana Family Institute, a conservative advocacy group with strong ties to Pence and key GOP lawmakers. The Institute and other amendment supporters argue that Indiana's current law against same-sex marriage needs to be locked into the Constitution to protect it from “activist” judges.

Robertson, an energetic optimist, shrugs off past support for the amendment. Citing polls that show rapidly evolving opinions on the issue of same-sex marriage in Indiana — combined with court rulings favoring same-sex marriage in New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah and Ohio — Robertson is convinced her efforts will pay off.

“We're fair-minded people,” Robertson said of her fellow Hoosiers. “We know this isn't the image we want for our state.”

She's won some impressive backing for that message that ties directly into that “Hoosier hospitality” sentiment for which we pride ourselves.

When Freedom Indiana kicked off its campaign this summer, announcing Robertson as the shaper of its message, it also announced twin donations of $100,000 from two of the state's biggest and best employers — pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and the engine-maker Cummins. Robertson used the money to ramp up the organization and mobilize volunteers who’ve made 250,000 phone calls, triggering a tsunami of emails and letters to lawmakers.

Since Robertson started, vocal opposition to the amendment has grown and included Republican (and Democratic) mayors from the state's biggest cities.

And it includes prominent GOP stalwarts such as former U.S. Attorney Deborah Daniels — sister to former Gov. Mitch Daniels — who wrote an opinion column that asked the question: “What can my Republican friends be thinking?”

It's a question echoed by Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany, who predicts that he won't be the only Republican lawmaker to vote against the amendment, as he was two years ago.

Of Robertson, Clere says: “She’s living proof that this is not a partisan issue.”

The conventional political wisdom has the amendment as an odds-on favorite for passage when the Legislature convenes.

Robertson is dismissive of the conventional wisdom: “Anybody who says they know what's going to happen in session is going to be proven wrong. The process is just too volatile.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News Columns
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating Raw: Airstrike Shatters Fragile Calm in Gaza Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Violent Clashes Between Libyan Militias Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Fox Dons 'Bondage Strap' Skirt at Comic-Con Mother of 2 Makes NFL Cheerleading Squad at 40 Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Obama Advisor Skips House Hearing Video Shows Smiling American Bomber in Syria
NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity