Bil Browning

What will happen to Indiana's marriage amendment?

Filed By Bil Browning | November 29, 2007 6:50 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: amendment, homophobic behavior, Indiana, legislature, marriage, Mitch Daniels, religious right, SJR-7, state government

Indiana's proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage and civil unions (SJR-7) is a case study in politics versus progress. As I described in previous posts about the legislature and the Governor and the religious right, both supporters and opponents are walking a tightrope over public opinion.

Hoosiers are in an uproar over their pocketbooks; they want our government to work on something that specifically hurts them directly. Public support for attacking gays and lesbians is dropping fast while anti-incumbency fever is rising even more rapidly.

If SJR-7 doesn't pass this session, it's dead and the supporters have to start all over again. (Unlike last year where they could just re-introduce it this session.) Constitutional amendments take years to pass in Indiana - both through the legislature and a referendum; it is a complicated process.

After the jump I'll tell you what I believe is going to happen and quickly recap the major players.

The Major Players

  • Republican Legislators - They hold the majority in the state Senate and are only 2 votes from the majority in the House. No Republican senator or house member has ever voted against SJR-7. Known for his homophobia and support of the amendment, House Minority Leader Brian Bosma has suddenly shifted his priorities to property taxes.
  • Democratic Legislators - They control very few seats in the state Senate and the slimmest majority in the House. With the anti-incumbent tax mob still steaming forward full throttle, they're hoping to build a much stronger lead in the House. Democrats have also claimed property taxes as the #1 priority.
  • Governor Mitch Daniels - Guess what his #1 priority is? Re-election. Think I was going to say "property taxes?" That's only part of the problems Mitch faces. His poll numbers are dropping faster than Larry Craig in an airport bathroom. While the Guv has quite a war chest built up, it looks like he's going to need it.
  • The Religious Right - Love can't keep them together. As Eric Miller strips SJR-7 from the front of his website and bounces around the state banging the big property taxes drum, the true believers are starting to realize they've been sold a bill of goods. While some are still advocating for the amendment, most of the base are starting to realize that "strengthening families" requires a little more than a few words in a law book.

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

As the song says, the future's not mine to see. But I can hazard a guess... *grins* I see some storm clouds brewing in the legislature in my crystal ball.

With everyone's focus on property taxes, there will be two camps of people on both sides of the party line. One will want to actually try and solve the problem with the tax structure. The other will want to obstruct any real work from getting done in the hopes that they'll be able to blame it on the other party in the next election. Remember, the legislature only meets for 30 days this year.

With big business leading the charge against the amendment, the Governor is going to have to make some difficult choices. By embracing the amendment he could try to shore up conservative votes, but in doing so he'd be abandoning his base in the business community. I don't see him doing that; I think he'll stay neutral again.

My big worry is that we'll get used as a political football. One side or the other will offer us up on a platter in exchange for the property tax reforms they both need so badly. They'll offer to pass the amendment to show the public they can accomplish something.

As I've been watching though, I don't think the public would stand for it anymore. In a recent poll, Hillary Clinton could flip Indiana blue if Evan Bayh is the running mate. In a state trending bluer by the year, I don't know that Hoosiers would fall for the "smear the queer" bait again.

I think the amendment will die this year. This close to a presidential election that's trending more and more Democratic, neither side will want something on the ballot to remind voters of George W's reign. It won't do either of them any good politically.

And isn't that what it's really about?

(This is the 3rd post in a series on SJR-7, the proposed Indiana constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. The other posts are "The fate of Indiana's anti-marriage amendment" and "Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels vs the Religious Right.")

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | November 30, 2007 7:23 AM

I'm cautiously optimistic that SJR-7 will not make it this time. In 2005, when it was introduced, very few if any legislators from either side of the aisle really paid much attention to the second sentence. They thought it was just some kind of harmeless "legalese" tacked on to the definition of marriage.

The situation was much different in 2007 when many more began to take the language apart and discover that there were a lot of things that needed explaining. The text came from the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which none other than Judge Robert Bork (Ronald Reagan's unsuccessful nominee for the Supreme Court) later testified before Congress had been "poorly drafted". Sponsors in D.C. heard him and made some changes, but the folks in Indiana didn't budge, leading to a widening suspicion of another agenda.

Bad concept, bad drafting, simply an attempt to ram something through to have a "wedge issue" on the ballot to energize the evangelical Republican base in the November 2008 election. If we all just stay awake and make sure people understand what's really at stake we can help keep this thing (and us) from becoming a political football.

I know TBP will help do its part.

Bil and Don, I hope that both of you are correct. But I also think that we will see a full-court press from the RR wingnuts that will be unprecedented. I hope that our local (Indianapolis) and state pro-marriage-equality political groups are prepared for what may prove to be a massive onslaught.

And ... I also hope that the day after what is supposed to be a short legislative session is permanently adjourned, I will be hearing, "See, Allen, you were wrong! You were just crying wolf!"

... and, if and when I hear that, no one will be happier than I will be.