Battle for marriage equality in Ind. makes for odd political pairings

Darron Cummings, APFreedom Indiana marriage equality supporters.

Darron Cummings, APFreedom Indiana marriage equality supporters.

INDIANAPOLIS — The battle over amending the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage is splitting pretty clearly along ideological lines but making for some odd pairings of otherwise partisan foes.

When opponents of the amendment launched their campaign last month, they tapped a veteran Republican operative, Megan Robertson, to lead the charge. They then announced this week they had hired the director of the Democratic Party’s field operations, Peter Hanscom.

Darron Cummings, APFreedom Indiana marriage equality supporters.

Darron Cummings, AP
Freedom Indiana marriage equality supporters.

Supporters, meanwhile, are counting on a base of conservative and rural Democrats to bolster their already strong position among legislative Republicans.

“This isn’t an issue that’s divided on party lines so much,” said Robertson, campaign manager of Freedom Indiana, the group leading the fight against the amendment.

“It’s a different kind of issue than what you see typically being discussed at the Statehouse. It’s something where people can really come together regardless of what party they’re from,” she said.

Indiana already limits marriage to being between one man and one woman. But supporters are fearful a judge could overturn the state law, in part relying on this past summer’s Supreme Court decision.

The first part of what could be a lengthy battle will take place during next year’s legislative session.

Leaders for Advance America, an Indiana group, and American Family Association of Indiana have been urging their members to lobby state lawmakers. The directors of both groups were not immediately available for comment Tuesday, but Advance America posted an item on its website Tuesday with lobbying instructions.

“The 2014 General Assembly must pass the Marriage Protection Amendment HJR 6 – as is – so the citizens can vote on November 4, 2014 to stop homosexual marriages!” the group wrote in the post.

Placing the law in the constitution is a four-year process in Indiana; lawmakers must approve the measure in two consecutive biennial sessions and then send the issue to the ballot, for a decision from voters.

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The General Assembly overwhelmingly supported the amendment on a first vote in 2011, but public polling on the issue has shifted somewhat in Indiana in the past few years, leaving both sides to play a high stakes vote-counting game.

Republicans hold strong command in both chambers — 69 of 100 House seats and 37 out 50 Senate seats — but Robertson said she thinks her group can find the votes needed to block the amendment. But there is little guarantee of unity from the chambers’ Democrats.

Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, said his constituents are clearly in favor of the amendment, which is why he will be voting for it. He can see the state’s remaining rural Democrats peeling away from the larger bloc of urban lawmakers to support the amendment.

“It gets to become a non-issue because I think it’s become publicized so much. I think everybody has their stand on where they’re at on it,” Goodin said. “I don’t think there’s any swaying one side or the other, and I think people are at where they’re at.”

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