INDIANAPOLIS — If you want to irritate the chairman of the Howard County Republican Party, just call the proposed amendment to ban gay marriage a Republican measure.
GOP leaders may be jumping through political hoops to carry the amendment through the Legislature. But, said Craig Dunn, “I don’t see this as a Republican-driven thing but a legislative-driven thing in a Legislature that happens to be controlled by Republicans.”
It’s a distinction that would be easy to miss. Past support for the amendment from conservative Democrats has fallen away. With strong backing from GOP Gov. Mike Pence and his social conservative allies, House Joint Resolution 3 may be the defining issue of the 2014 session in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
The measure would lock Indiana’s ban on gay marriage into the state constitution. As written, it would expand that ban to civil unions, though the House voted yesterday to strike that provision, raising questions about the timing of a public vote on the measure.
But the debate is capturing the attention of national media — who describe it as a Republican-backed measure — at a time when others states are headed in the opposite direction.
Dunn and some other local Republican leaders — including mayors and county party chairmen — have spent months distancing themselves from the measure. They argue that it alienates young voters whom the party needs to stay in power in Indiana and reclaim the White House.
“We are missing out on a tremendous growth opportunity for our party if we say to a group of people, ‘You’re not wanted, you’re not welcome,’” Dunn said.
In an opinion piece published in the Indianapolis Business Journal last week, former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark — a self-described conservative Catholic —bemoaned the fact that HJR-3 is dominating the session.