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Indiana

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Delegates face gay marriage debate

State GOP platform includes provision supporting ban

– The Republican State Convention in Fort Wayne could be the site of Round 3 in a divisive fight over gay marriage.

Social conservatives led by Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp have won a behind-the-scenes fight to add a provision on marriage to the Indiana Republican Party’s platform.

Now it’s up to hundreds of GOP delegates to approve the platform or not at the June 6-7 convention.

Several area delegates were less than enthusiastic about speaking on the topic Wednesday. Some declined interviews. One said “forget it” and hung up when told the subject of the call. Some returned calls after crafting a careful response. Several joked about their quotes getting them in trouble.

The exact wording of the proposal will be posted next week, but reports are that it is as follows: “we believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.”

Wording was also added to recognize “diverse” family structures, but some Republicans wish the topic was left out altogether.

Already this year, the Republican-dominated Indiana legislature wrestled with the topic of gay marriage and altered a proposed constitutional ban, pushing a public vote to 2016.

Then it became an issue in a number of May primary election campaigns, including two House races that ended in defeat for incumbents who had voted against the ban.

“I believe it is important for the Republican Party to have a big tent, and being exclusive in any way is not going to benefit our party in the long run,” said Fort Wayne delegate Randy Borror. “At this point in time, I would say yes – we should have left it out.”

But local delegate Glenna Jehl is glad to see the subject added.

“I agree with it morally, so I think it’s a good thing for the party to stand up. But I recognize it’s a position that is increasingly being attacked,” she said.

That’s why she isn’t hopeful that it means much, especially given how lawmakers “caved” to those who were pushing for gay rights during the session.

“It’s a token stance,” Jehl said. “I’m glad it’s there, but I’m not naïve enough to think that’s what all Republicans believe or will vote along those lines when they are in positions of power.”

In 2010, the Indiana GOP platform said: “we support the millennia old concept of marriage as a union between a woman and a man.”

But in 2012, the insiders crafting the platform avoided the subject by saying: “we believe that strong families are the foundation of virtue.”

Delegate Paul Lagemann said he doesn’t oppose the position but isn’t sure it belongs in the platform, except to force someone’s hand who opposes the constitutional gay marriage ban.

“I am conservative but am also a pragmatist. The stronger and more cohesive the party is in the long term is what we should be focusing on,” he said. “Why create division when we don’t have to?”

Lagemann added that views on marriage are personal but any impact on religious freedom would be great cause for concern. He predicted that the platform would pass without a problem, even if some Republicans are uncomfortable.

Fort Wayne delegate John McGauley said he is willing to accept the wording largely because he thinks it could have gone further and caused a heated convention battle.

“Session didn’t go the way a lot of folks wanted it to go, so this was a good compromise,” he said. “I don’t want a big, hot, divisive convention fight.”

McGauley said he believes the proposed statement about marriage is true but said it has become abundantly clear that gay marriage bans are not legal.

“More and more federal judges – not just liberal activist judges – are saying these bans don’t adhere to a constitutional test,” he said. “We’ve got to buy the whole package, including following the law even if we don’t like what it says.”

Delegate Michael Barranda said he went through a tough primary fight, and the clear sentiment of voters was the desire to vote on the issue.

“It seems like haggling over the language against doesn’t serve the party,” he said.

nkelly@jg.net

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