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Indiana state law already prohibits gay marriage. But legislators were considering a move to put the same restriction in the Indiana Constitution.

Money talks in gay-marriage ban

Report shows opposition spent double on lobby efforts

– Months after a bruising fight over gay marriage in the Indiana legislature, newly filed lobbying reports show the coalition opposing a constitutional ban outspent conservative supporters by double.

Freedom Indiana – which fought limiting marriage in the state constitution – spent more than $109,000 on lobbying efforts between Nov. 1 and April 30.

In comparison, five key entities supporting traditional marriage between one man and one woman spent a collective $54,000 during the same period.

Reports were due May 31 at the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission, though it took several weeks for them to be placed online.

“There's no doubt that we were heavily outspent by outside groups here and out of state, and by corporations who did not want to allow the people of Indiana to vote on the future of marriage in a ballot referendum,” said Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana.

“We always believed that the future of marriage belonged in the hands of Hoosier voters, not the courts, not the activists and not Hollywood,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the big corporate money and mobilized homosexual activists prevented this from happening.”

Indiana state law already prohibits gay marriage. But legislators were considering a move to put the same restriction in the Indiana Constitution.

A proposed amendment had already passed one General Assembly session. If it had passed a second, separately elected legislature in the same form, then it would have gone to the voters in November.

But Republicans and Democrats in the House removed a second sentence of the proposal that also would have banned gay civil unions, not just gay marriages. The Senate agreed.

The change has reset the clock on the constitutional amendment, meaning the earliest it can go to Hoosier voters is 2016.

Freedom Indiana was organized and active from the start. Funded by large donations from Eli Lilly and Cummins Inc., the group had supporters at the Statehouse from day one in the form of paid lobbyists, organizers, spokespeople and Hoosiers affected by the ban.

“From our perspective, a lot of our time was spent explaining the issue and discussing how it impacts Hoosiers across the state,” said Megan Robertson, campaign manager for the group. “We focused there rather than taking people to dinners. That was reflected in how we structured our campaign. Our efforts were largely about hearing from constituents.”

The majority of Freedom's spending was compensation paid to employees and contract lobbyists – about $106,000.

The group spent only $321 on entertainment expenditures and gifts. For instance, Freedom Indiana paid for three legislators to attend a rally in December with Mary Cheney, the openly gay daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The lawmakers were Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Steve Braun, R-Zionsville. The cost per lawmaker was about $67.

Clere was the only Republican lawmaker to vote against the constitutional ban in 2011, and Eberhart had come out against the measure before the event.

“It was just a select few of those who had taken a stand on our issue,” Robertson said. “They were very vocal, and we wanted Mary to meet them.”

Clere said he didn't believe money made a difference in the debate because most legislators already had their minds made up or were leaning strongly one way.

If anything, he said, the money Freedom Indiana had helped them have a strong organization around the state.

“Some of the most effective lobbying on the issue was from average, everyday Hoosiers,” Clere said.

He also said the group did a good job refuting the perception that all churches and seniors supported the ban.

The American Family Association of Indiana spent only $632 to cover Executive Director Clark's weekly timecards – hours spent at the Statehouse lobbying or working on email alerts.

“I did not do a lot more than I do any other session,” he said.

The largest amount of spending from the conservative side came from Indiana Family Action, which is the 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization related to the Indiana Family Institute.

Ryan McCann heads Indiana Family Action, which reported spending about $36,000 in lobbying. The vast majority of that was claimed as “other.”

He said it paid for phone calls around the state to Hoosiers interested in the issue, who would then be transferred to state senator or representative offices to say where they stood on the debate.

“We aren't surprised by the numbers,” McCann said. “We don't have the big-business folks behind us. That's absolutely what made the difference. They had hired every lobbying firm practically.”

Freedom Indiana retained five of the state's largest lobbying firms and had three paid employees who were registered to lobby.

“I give them credit. They raised a ton of money and really convinced a lot of legislators something that wasn't true – that their constituents were against the ban.”

Advance America also spent $2,200 and Indiana Family Institute spent $9,100.

The National Organization for Marriage got involved in February after it became clear there was a real chance at defeat or delay.

The group spent almost $6,500 – most on compensation for two contract lobbyists for a period of four or five weeks. The rest was largely spent on signs and some shipping costs.

Chris Plante, regional director for the organization, said its allies invited the group to the state when the Indiana House “betrayed the constituents.”

“It came down to the last fight there, and they asked us to become more involved,” he said. “In a very large way, it often comes down to money.”

He said Freedom Indiana “paid a slew of people to mob the Statehouse, which was perfectly within their rights.” But Plante also pointed out that some legislators paid the price for their votes by getting tossed out in the primary.

Republican state Reps. Rebecca Kubacki and Kathy Heuer were defeated in the May Republican primary. Both voted against an attempt to put a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the ballot.

nkelly@jg.net

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