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Lobbyists bombard House panel over proposed ban on same-sex marriage

Thursday, January 9, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — Lobbyists on both sides of Indiana’s gay marriage debate have been bombarding a small group of House lawmakers pivotal in deciding the fate of a measure that would codify a same-sex wedding ban as part of the state constitution.

Even before key legislation was formally introduced Thursday, activists were focusing on the 13 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to take up the package on Monday. Volunteers with Freedom Indiana, the umbrella group opposing the amendment have been targeting lawmakers in their home districts for months with phone calls and emails.

Indiana-same-sex-marriageWhile workers for religious conservative groups have relied in part on church fliers to get their message out.

That lobbying battle went public this week after amendment supporters bought ads targeting committee members. In the ad, mug shots of the 13 lawmakers flash on screen as a narrator argues that voting against the amendment amounts to silencing the public.

“Seven of these legislators should not stop the people from voting,” says the narrator in the spot paid for by Advance America, one of the religious conservative groups supporting the amendment.

The marriage amendment would head to the ballot in November if lawmakers sign off on it this session. But first it must clear the House panel.

State Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, formally started the legislative gears turning when he filed a measure Thursday that would place the state’s existing gay marriage ban in the constitution and also ban civil unions and benefits for same-sex couples. He filed a companion measure legislative leaders are hoping will assuage concerns the amendment is too far-reaching.

Republican legislative leaders paired the proposed amendment with the explanatory legislation as part of an effort to assuage lawmakers who are concerned an amendment would ban other rights for same-sex couple beyond simply marriage. That package is on a fast track through the already-abbreviated 2014 “short session.”

One of the key targets, Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, said he has been pressured since last spring to declare how he will vote. He noted that he began receiving mailers shortly after the 2013 session asking him to declare his position.

He said the most frustrating part was having activists put words in his mouth.

“One of the things I have found in being undecided on how to vote on this issue right now – and I have not declared whether I am in favor of it or opposed to it – I find myself being cast as I am opposed to it,” he said. “And from that standpoint, I am not very happy about it.”

Another targeted member, Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said he’s been contacted by both sides but is more focused on other issues.

Some members have toughened against lobbying on divisive issues after years of high-profile fights, he said. McMillin was elected in Nov. 2010, since then he has dealt with a sweeping education overhaul in 2011, the right-to-work labor battle in 2012 and the budget battles of the most recent session.

“It’s just something that you learn to deal with,” he said. “Is there pressure out there from both sides? Yeah, there is. But we learn to deal with it.”

McMillin said he plans to vote in favor of the amendment.

Eric Miller, executive director of Advance America, said he plans to advertise votes by each lawmaker, from the committee to the full chamber.

“All through the process we’re going to be educating people about what’s going on, how their representative or senator votes,” he said. He added that he’s confident the amendment will pass the committee and the House.

Advertising legislative votes is hardly a new tactic among activists at all levels of government. Interest groups have been issuing “report cards” scoring lawmakers for decades, but Miller has deep roots inside the Statehouse and Indiana ha s a strong base of conservative voters.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, cautioned that pressure tactics can occasionally boomerang if groups aren’t careful. He pointed to Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s troubles lobbying for a proposed income tax cut. After House Republicans passed a budget without the governor’s tax cut, Pence supporters began airing ads blasting House Republicans.

“I don’t think necessarily television ads during the legislative session are an effective means to change someone’s opinion. Particularly on an issue like this,” he said. “We saw something much more intense last year on tax policy and, if anything, that effort, I think, made the sides less likely to come together because of some of the things that were said.”

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17 more reader comments:

  1. That proves to me that people will bitch at just about everything.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:28am
  2. Let’s bombard those asshats from banning marriage between two people regardless of gender and sexual attractions. Join us now!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:28am
  3. Just more obstruction from the Republican’s!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:37am
  4. This is stupid… I mean really Indiana wake up already…

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:42am
  5. what the fuck they are? Uguanda? rusia? they are becoming the same shit….

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:43am
  6. We need riots. Its time to stand our ground

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:50am
  7. The Republican’s WHAT, Ian??

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:50am
  8. The republicans repress rights of all different groups of people, They are insidious and We will resist them!!! Even if it comes to civil war!

    Replied on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:12am
  9. They’ve begun a television advertisement campaign to get this piece of crap passed. They’ve also changed the name of it by a number, which will confuse people,

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:08am
  10. I was pointing out a grammatical error, darling.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:17am
  11. Civil war!!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:43am
  12. This is our home. Our families are here we work have families take care of our homes and pay taxes. We also vote. What is happening now in this state makes Indiana look hateful and so regressive it’s shameful. The very people who profess to be Christians are so full of hate and vitriol it’s breathtaking and so sad for all of us that want to enjoy equal treatment under the law. This is a very terrible way to treat citizens and is not the America I thought we lived in .

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:44am
  13. America is a false dream.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:45am
  14. I’m going to the rally this Monday and fighting for the rights as a gay man, I deserve!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 2:00am
  15. You have to be asleep for the American DREAM.

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 2:51am
  16. Gay men and lesbians who are serving in the military can’t even get married in the country they serve for, yet the GOP ‘support our troops’, LGBT people are part of them too! Indiana, wake the hell up!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 3:08am
  17. Im ashamed to be a Hoosier

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 4:48am