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By TOM LoBIANCO
INDIANAPOLIS — Gay marriage is an issue that never seems to die in Indiana politics.
The most recent battle is being played out inside the Republican Party, as delegates to the party’s upcoming convention ponder whether the GOP platform should support defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.
The platform-writing committee raised the issue last week after it voted to include language saying that marriage between one man and one woman is essential for supporting the development of society. The question will now go to the roughly 1,700 delegates scheduled to attend the convention in Fort Wayne next month.
For Hoosier politicos, it’s an issue that just keeps cropping up.
Before the party platform fight, conservative Republicans used the issue to oust two incumbent Republicans in primary elections earlier this month. And just a few months before that, state lawmakers waged the premier battle in the Indiana General Assembly. They could have largely settled the issue, but instead delayed any clear answers until 2016, and possibly longer.
When state lawmakers convened for their 2014 session in January, the proposal to write Indiana’s existing gay marriage ban into the state constitution quickly dominated debate. Hours of testimony in House and Senate hearings were matched by daily protests at the Statehouse from supporters and opponents of the ban.
Jim Bopp, the Terre Haute attorney who first suggested adding the marriage clause to the party platform two weeks ago, said he sees broad support for his position. He notes that while lawmakers effectively kept the issue from the ballot this year, many of their public statements focused on concerns with banning civil unions but did not deal with the core issue of marriage.
“I understand there were some active efforts in the last legislative session against the constitutional amendment, but it mainly focused on the second sentence (of the proposal), which dealt with civil unions. When you got down to it, it was less than 10 percent of lawmakers that opposed it,” Bopp said of placing the ban in the constitution.
On the other side of the issue, Megan Robertson led the fight against the ban as campaign manager for Freedom Indiana. Along with Bopp, she will be a delegate at the Republican convention. The GOP’s leaders could put an end to the constant debate if they wanted to, she said.
“The most frustrating thing about this is you have leaders of the party consistently saying this is an issue they’d rather not deal with. But when it comes down to it, nobody is willing to stand up and say something,” Robertson said.
The issue has been a tough one for Gov. Mike Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.
Bosma caught flak from social conservatives shortly after the House passed its version of the ban. They said he had promised the ban would pass in its original form, placing it on track for the November ballot. Bosma said he consistently promised the issue would be vetted by the full House of Representatives, but no more than that.
Long sanctioned one of his members, Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, after Delph held a Statehouse press conference accusing Long of scuttling efforts to get the ban on the November ballot.
And Pence largely avoided the issue after giving it top billing in his second State of the State address.
Regardless of what happens during the convention, count on the constitutional amendment being resubmitted for consideration during the next session. The question will be whether the issue is pushed to the fore again, or whether party leaders decide to let it be.