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Lobbying group wants to know Ind. lawmakers’ stance on gay marriage ban

Lobbying group wants to know Ind. lawmakers’ stance on gay marriage ban

INDIANAPOLIS — A prominent conservative lobbying group is pushing for Indiana lawmakers to disclose what side they’ll take in next year’s expected vote on whether to put a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution.

Eric Miller, founder and executive director of Indianapolis-based Advance America, said in a letter to legislators that he will compile the responses and “make them available to citizens around the state.”

IndianaThe Advance America survey’s deadline is Thursday — a day after the state Senate’s majority Republicans have scheduled a private caucus, reported The Indianapolis Star.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the GOP senators will discuss the amendment and other topics, but that the meeting “has nothing to do with Eric Miller” or his lobbying organization.

Miller is among the highest-profile lobbyists in the Statehouse and also unsuccessfully sought the 2004 Republican nomination for governor.

Advance America, which claims 45,000 families, 3,700 churches and 1,500 businesses as supporters, has been among the leading backers of the gay marriage ban proposal. Miller did not respond to the Star’s calls seeking comment, nor did he immediately return a phone message Monday from The Associated Press.

State law currently prohibits same-sex marriage, and the General Assembly overwhelmingly supported the proposed constitutional amendment in 2011. If legislators approve it again next year, it would go before voters in November 2014.

An organization named Freedom Indiana has formed to campaign against the amendment and is receiving money and public support from Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. and Columbus-based Cummins Inc.

Surveys like Miller’s are a way for interest groups to apply pressure to lawmakers, said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“The implied threat is if you’re in a district where your position is wrong, watch out, because your position may come back to haunt you,” Downs said.

Some lawmakers are keeping an eye on changing public attitudes toward same-sex couples.

“I think the times have changed, as have people’s attitudes toward it,” said Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, who voted for the amendment in 2011. While believing marriage should be between a man and a woman, Wyss said he is “uncomfortable” with a provision that also would ban civil unions.

Wyss, a 28-year Senate veteran, is not running for re-election next year and said his Advance America poll “went into the trash” like most surveys he receives.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, voted in favor of the ban amendment in 2011, but said he believes lawmakers need to thoroughly discuss its impact again.

“The purpose of the caucus is to find out how we want to handle the issue — what is doable, what is not doable,” Kenley said.

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