Gay Marriage Ban Off The Ballot This Year. Or Is It?

My interview w/Chris Plante of the National Organization for Marriage:


UPDATE #2 (2/21/2014)

If Chris Plante from NOM spoke to “state lawmakers”, my guess is that he did not speak to House Speaker Brian Bosma.  The Speaker said yesterday that there is no way to get any part of HJR-3 on the 2014 ballot.  The story from my colleague, Eric Berman:

House Speaker Brian Bosma is throwing cold water on a conservative group’s bid to force a gay-marriage amendment onto this year’s ballot.

The Washington-based National Organization for Marriage is floating the possibility of a lawsuit arguing that the first sentence of the amendment has passed the required two legislatures, even though the version which passed the House and Senate in 2011 included a second sentence banning civil unions.

Bosma confirms he met briefly with the group this week, but says the notion of a lawsuit didn’t even come up. He joins Senate President Pro Tem David Long in saying he considers the law clear that amendments must pass two separate legislatures in the same form. That would mean a referendum can’t occur until 2016.

And Bosma notes opponents who successfully deleted the civil-union clause also added a preamble explicitly declaring the amendment had to pass the General Assembly a second time to go to the voters.

Long has said he expects the Senate to hold hearings on the amendment next year. Bosma’s not discussing what the House will do — he says he’s focused on the three weeks remaining in this year’s session.


My colleague, Eric Berman, spoke to Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, the coalition fighting HJR-3.  She basically said NOM had no clue.  Here is my WIBC story:

The coalition opposed to the proposed gay marriage ban in Indiana doesn’t buy another group’s claim that it’s possible to get the constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot.

The regional director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) says it is “exploring all it’s options” in trying to get the amendment known as HJR-3 before voters this year. Under state law, the amendment has to be passed in another legislative session because a sentence that would ban same-sex civil unions was removed from the resolution that passed in 2011. “They talked a lot about how this shouldn’t be in the hands of activist judges and how this should be decided by the people, and frankly it was decided by the people,” said Megan Robertson with Freedom Indiana. “The legislature voted, they decided there were some changes that needed to be made in the language and that it wouldn’t go to the ballot this year.”

Chris Plante with NOM claims there is precedent for the legislature holding referendums on constitutional amendments if the first part – the main idea – of those referendums are passed twice. Robertson isn’t swayed. “They’ve said they’ve talked to the Speaker – I can’t verify that, but my guess is that they haven’t talked to (Senate President Pro Tem David) Long, who has said several times this can’t go to the ballot.”

As of now, the earliest HJR-3 could appear on the ballot is 2016.


The above photo was taken from NOM’s Facebook page, and their regional director, Chris Plante, believes a vote can still happen in 2014.  That’s despite what pretty much everyone else at the Indiana Statehouse believes to be true, that 2016 is the earliest a referendum can take place.  My WIBC story on the matter:

One of the outside groups who pressed the General Assembly to approve a ban on gay marriage will try to find a way to get the proposed constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot, even though that isn’t supposed to be possible.

“The Legislature has affirmed marriage as the union one man and one woman, both in statute and in passing the first sentence of HJR-3 two successive legislative sessions.  We believe that language should go to the ballot this year,” said Chris Plante, regional director for the National Organization for Marriage, based in Washington.

State law says that proposed amendments to the Constitution have to be approved twice with no change in language in order to go before voters.  The marriage amendment approved by the General Assembly this year did not include a sentence that also banned same-sex civil unions, unlike the version passed in 2011.  But Plante says he believes there is a precedent in Indiana “where a proposed amendment was passed by one session and then amended in a second session, yet the first clause of that amendment was put on the ballot that year.”  Plante could not specify when that had taken place in the past.

Plante’s claim runs counter to that from other groups who supported HJR-3 and opposed removing the amendment’s civil unions ban.  “Hoosier voters will not be able to vote to protect marriage this November.  This is indeed a disappointing setback,” read a statement from the Indiana Family Institute after HJR-3 in its new form was approved by the State Senate this week.  Also, the first section of the amendment says that is has been “referred to the next General Assembly for reconsideration and agreement.”

Plante joined others, among them Republican Senator Mike Delph, in denouncing GOP legislative leaders for their handling of the marriage amendment this session.  “The choice of the House leadership and Senate leadership to allow HJR-3 to be amended and therefore potentially delay the question going before the people is a betrayal and a broken promise,” Plante said.  When asked if he worried that some would see his as an outside group trying to influence Indiana events, Plante said he was standing up for what most people in the state believe.  “80-percent of the voters in Indiana think that it should be on the ballot.  60-percent say they would approve an amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman.”  Plante is referring to a poll commissioned by House Republicans last month.  A previous survey from Ball State University showed that 60-percent of respondents opposed the amendment, with 48-percent saying they favored the legalization of same-sex marriage.

No lawsuits have been filed as of yet.  Plante says he has spoken with some state lawmakers about pursuing this year’s ballot and says they are “considering all their options” as of now.

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