Senate GOP leaders punish Delph, strip him of leadership posts

The top Republicans in the Indiana Senate removed a conservative senator from a leadership position this week in the wake of an intraparty fight over amending the state's constitution to ban gay marriage.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long and other members of his leadership team told Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel on Thursday that he would lose his ranking within the Republican caucus, his press secretary and his literal seat among other Republicans in the Senate chamber — Delph will now sit among the Senate's Democrats.

The sanctions came just a few days after Delph called a Statehouse news conference where he accused Long, of Fort Wayne, and others of purposely delaying a public vote on the gay marriage ban. Supporters of the proposed ban, including Delph, suffered a surprising defeat at the Statehouse when the measure was altered by House lawmakers to remove a ban on civil unions, effectively delaying a final decision on the issue at least two years.

Just minutes before the Senate decided against restoring the ban and sending the issue to the ballot this November, Delph tweeted that the issue was dead for the session. Long spokeswoman Lindsay Jancek said the punishment was not based on Delph's criticism of Long, but instead because he tweeted about internal caucus proceedings. She declined further comment.

Delph declined comment Friday and said he would talk more about the issue next week.

One of the few lawmakers to comment openly about Delph's sanctions Friday was House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, who was one of Delph's fraternity brothers when they attended Indiana University in the early '90s.

"He is a good person, and if you needed help cleaning out your garage he'd come over and he'd help you," Pelath said. "But Mike understands that words have consequences and when you're really being what you believe is courageous, that means you have to accept the consequences of that courage."

The Senate Republican leaders are not the first Indiana lawmakers to punish a member for stepping out of the party line. Then-House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, removed former Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville, from the second-ranking position in the House in 2010 because of his opposition to a measure dealing with the construction of the Illiana Expressway in northern Indiana.

Bauer also stripped former Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, of a committee chairmanship in 2003, shortly after Moses challenged him for control of the House. Bauer also moved Moses' parking spot in the Statehouse lot further from the building.

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