GOP Leaders Say Gay Marriage Ban Not Priority

By Tom LoBianco

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -

The Republican leaders of Indiana's General Assembly said Thursday they have not decided whether to take up a constitutional ban on gay marriage, one day after a pair of House lawmakers filed separate proposals to place the ban before voters in 2014.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said he was not focused on the issue right now, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long hasn't brought up the issue with the other 36 members of his caucus.

"All we've done is assigned it to committee as required. Our focus is on career development, as we talked about here today," Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday after talking at the Statehouse about his plan to improve job training in the state. "I'm not talking about (a gay marriage ban) today."

Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he expects to have an answer from members of his caucus before the session's midpoint - at the end of February - on whether they want to take up the gay marriage ban issue.

The issue has hung over the 2013 session as Republicans strategize over whether to debate on it this year or next.

Gay marriage ban proposals by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, and Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, were delivered Wednesday. The separate resolutions were included in the final round of House proposals ahead of a key legislative deadline.

The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the constitutional ban in 2011, but must approve it one more time before the end of next year in order to amend it into the state's constitution. If approved a second time, it would be placed on the ballot for a final decision by the voters in 2014.

The ban was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, but its fate is still unclear as top Republicans try to keep the focus on jobs and education measures.

Some of Bosma and Long's hesitation to address the ban stems from the Supreme Court's decision to take a pair of cases related to the issue, one which could make the battle moot in Indiana. Long has asked his staff to compile a legal review to determine what impact a high court ruling could have on the state.

Legislative Democrats, who are vastly outnumbered in both chambers, have asked Republicans to avoid the debate altogether so the focus can stay on fiscal issues. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, asked Bosma at the start of the session to place a two-year moratorium on debating social issues like gay marriage. But Bosma declined, saying "social issue" is a highly subjective term.

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