INDIANAPOLIS – An initial vote on the proposed constitutional gay marriage ban will come today after House Speaker Brian Bosma rescued the measure Tuesday by moving it to a friendlier committee.
He said he struggled with the decision over the weekend but had heard from a majority of the House Republican caucus – for and against the measure – that they wanted to vote on the bill on the House floor.
“This seemed like the best way to do it; the least intrusive and most respectful of the process,” Bosma said.
He moved House Joint Resolution 3 – the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions – and a companion bill to the House Elections Committee from the House Judiciary Committee.
“It has a likelihood of making it to the floor with this route,” Bosma said.
Democrats called the maneuver forum shopping and a bully tactic.
The bipartisan commission fighting the amendment also weighed in.
“Speaker Bosma repeatedly promised to treat this issue like any other bill and that no one person would make this decision,” Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson said. “We are proud of the way we have conducted ourselves and disappointed that Speaker Bosma did not live up to his word.”
The elections panel will hear the bill at 3:30 p.m. today and a vote will be taken. It is expected to easily pass. Of the 13 committee members, eight voted in support of the gay marriage amendment in 2011 (including two Democrats), two Democrats voted against and three are new members.
The House Judiciary Committee heard the bill Jan. 13 but stalled when several Republican members were publicly undecided and would not confirm their votes in advance to leadership.
One of those members was Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington.
“Moving it to a different committee was probably his only alternative to get it out of committee,” Leonard said.
He specifically lobbied against Bosma removing committee members, saying it was a terrible public policy precedent to set.
Bosma made a veiled reference to shadiness regarding the Judiciary Committee but would not embellish.
“I’m actually more concerned about the path by which the bill appeared to be being questionable in committee. It was a hard left turn that came kind of out of the blue,” he said. “I decided this was the right course to protect the institution.”
The bill to amend the state constitution says: “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”
Lawmakers passed the bill in 2011, but it takes another vote by the General Assembly to send it to Hoosiers for approval or defeat on the election ballot in November.
Leonard said he’s not sure the ban on gay marriage has a place in the Constitution. It is already in state law, but a second sentence in the proposal also would bar future lawmakers from enacting civil unions.
“I would vote for it without the second sentence,” he said.
Other Republicans have expressed similar sentiments; including Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne.
He was a member on Judiciary who said he was inclined to move the bill to the House floor though he would like to eliminate the second sentence. He is also on the Elections Committee.
Bosma doesn’t want House Republicans to offer the change because it would restart the process of the constitutional amendment and push a public vote on the matter until 2016.
But Democrats might also not want to offer the amendment because they have a better chance of defeating the resolution with the contentious provision in.