Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma moved House Joint Resolution 3, the constitutional amendment to define marriage, to another committee Tuesday in an effort to get the controversial proposal to the full House for a vote.
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he heard over the weekend from a majority of the members of the Republican caucus who said they wanted a chance to vote on the amendment, which would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“This seemed like the best way to do it,” Bosma said. He called it the “least intrusive, most respectful of the process.”
But House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City disagreed.
“I see a speaker with a lot of difficulties,” Pelath said. “It’s not unprecedented, but it is very unusual for something of such public magnitude. I think it’s a demonstration that there is a lot of division in the Republican Party.”
Bosma moved the amendment from the Judiciary Committee, where it had a three-hour hearing last week, to the Elections Committee, which has scheduled a hearing on the measure for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The speaker said Judiciary Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, told him he wasn’t confident the amendment could pass the committee.
Bosma said Elections Committee Chairman Milo Smith, R-Columbus, had been lobbying to have it in his committee.
Smith said he plans to take one-hour of testimony per side Wednesday. Smith said he hopes to have the committee vote on the proposal Wednesday, which would send the proposal to the full House. If it passes the General Assembly this year, it will go to the ballot for ratification by voters.
“I’ve said all along that it’s about the people voting on it,” Smith said. “We’re just debating this and it’s never going to get settled.”
New Rep. Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, is a member of the House Elections Committee but didn’t say Tuesday how she’d vote on the amendment.
“I am keeping an open mind and listening to all of the testimony,” she said. “I am faithfully looking plainly for constituent formulas, polls and survey results.”
Rep. Ed Soliday, a Valparaiso Republican who also serves on the committee, said polls show people on both sides of the issue want a chance to vote, as well as those on the House floor. He said he would vote for the amendment.
“Letting two or three people decide an issue this big that’s fully vetted, where does that get us?” Soliday said. “Ultimately, rights arise from the people, we the people, and somebody has to vote. The issue is it’s so overwhelming with people saying ‘give me my say’ that I don’t see how you can tell them no.”
But Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, expressed concern about those who have already testified before the House Judiciary Committee and now have to take additional leave from work to testify again.
“Instead of letting hours of testimony and the democratic process play out, the speaker of the House has decided to start the clock over,” Lanane said. “Sometimes the legislative process does not garner the expected result, but that does not mean one gets to change the rules in the middle of the game. This kind of legislative maneuvering has no place here.”
Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, a group fighting the amendment, shared Lanane’s disapproval. Robertson said that while she believed most legislators serving on the House Judiciary Committee sought to represent their constituents, she thought Bosma “broke his commitment to Hoosiers to uphold the traditional legislative process.”
“Speaker Bosma repeatedly promised to treat this issue like any other bill,” Robertson said. “We are proud of the way we have conducted ourselves and disappointed that Speaker Bosma did not live up to his word.”
Bosma said he wasn’t sure the bill would pass the Elections Committee but it had a “likelihood of making it to the floor with this route.”
Pelath said he thought there were more important economic problems to consider this session than HJR3, which only divided institutions and citizens.
“The speaker already said publicly that he wants it on the floor of the house so I’m presuming he would not put it in a committee that wasn’t going to send it on to the full house floor,” Pelath said. “Then again, he probably thought he had that committee the first time around. But looking at the membership of the elections committee I see a lot of social conservatives on there that I think are going to be enthused about dragging the voters through this exercise.”