ELKHART — Organizing to promote the proposed same-sex marriage ban, a looming topic in the 2014 legislative session, has started in Elkhart County.
Leaders pushing for the change — actually to define marriage in the Indiana Constitution as the union of one man and one woman — gathered in Elkhart Thursday, Oct. 24, to discuss the campaign with local elected officials, religious leaders and business representatives.
The meeting wasn’t open to the public, but participant Michael Neal, speaking by phone from the event, said about 20 Elkhart County representatives were on hand. Neal, from Schererville, is director of public policy for the Indiana Pastors Alliance, which backs the change, and chairman of the Indiana Federation of Young Republicans, which hasn’t taken a stance on the issue.
“If we’re to be successful, we have to mobilize people all around the state,” said Neal.
Similar meetings were held earlier this week in Kokomo, Tipton, Merrillville and Fort Wayne, with another gathering set for Friday in Indianapolis. Future meetings are planned in additional Indiana locales.
At issue in the coming legislative session will be whether to approve House Joint Resolution 6. If lawmakers approve it, a question will be put on the November 2014 general election ballot asking Indiana voters if the state constitution should be changed to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. That would effectively ban same-sex marriage.
“It’s not going to happen unless people get out in the community and talk to the lawmakers,” said Neal. “We’re going to have to knock on doors.”
As Neal envisions it, the first phase of proponents’ efforts would be focused on getting lawmakers to approve HJR 6. Then, presuming that passes, the focus would be on getting the public to vote for the change.
Those leading Thursday’s gathering included Ryan McCann, director of public policy for the Indiana Family Institute and lead lobbyist in Indianapolis for HJR 6, according to Neal. Also there were Randy Wilson, national field director for the Family Research Council, and Roy Johnson, Jr., executive director of the Indiana Pastors Alliance.
There’s broad support for HJR 6 and amending the constitution, Neal thinks, but “It’s definitely going to be a fight and debate.”
The movement for a marriage amendment has definite support in Elkhart County. After two U.S. Supreme Court decisions last June seen as favorable to gay marriage advocates, several state lawmakers representing the county voiced support for an amendment.
That said, those opposed to the marriage amendment have also started organizing, notably within a new coalition formed to fight HJR 6, Freedom Indiana.
Neal touted the marriage amendment as a positive for the economy. Children raised in a household with a father and a mother have the best chance at success as adults, as he sees it, and that success, in turn, drives the state economy. Foes of the amendment have argued, among other things, that the change would be bad for the state, hindering efforts to retain and attract talent in Indiana.