Monday, January 28, 2013

Bosma frustrated with marriage amendment

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 10:34 AM

click to enlarge lesley-stedman-weidenbener-mug-the-statehouse-file.jpeg

Republican leaders at the Indiana General Assembly seem at a loss as they decide how to proceed with a proposed constitutional ban to limit marriage to the union of one man and one woman - and restrict how lawmakers can grant rights to same-sex couples.

In fact, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, seems just annoyed - maybe even angry - when reporters ask about the issue.

Last week, he refused during a press conference about workforce proposals to answer a question about whether the marriage amendment would get a hearing or vote in committee. He said he'd talk about marriage later.

After the press conference was over, he said he hadn't decided yet whether the proposal would get a vote.

And then he added: "Anybody have a real question, an important question?"

Yikes. It was a startling answer for a man who nine years ago called the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage "the most critical piece of the people's business." And more importantly, it was a slap to the thousands of Hoosiers for whom this issue is important - either because they believe marriage equality is essentially a civil rights issue or they oppose it as immoral.

Bosma's indecision about the issue is certainly understandable. But his frustration with others' interest in the issue is not.

Back when the marriage amendment was a key part of the House GOP agenda and Republicans were in the minority, Bosma led his party on a walk-out in the House after then-Democratic Speaker Pat Bauer of South Bend refused to allow a vote on the proposal.

Then two years ago, Republicans - who had won the majority - started the state's long process for amending the state's constitution. They need to approve the marriage amendment again this year or next to send it to the ballot for ratification by voters.

But along the way, attitudes about same sex couples and their legal status have been changing. Thirty states have successfully changed their constitutions to ban gay marriage. But in the last election, voters in Maryland, Washington and Maine OK'd same-sex marriages. And voters in Minnesota rejected a proposal to ban same-sex marriage.

In Indiana last year, a poll sponsored by the Bowen Institute at Ball State University found that 45 percent of respondents supported same-sex marriage, while 45 percent opposed it. Those in favor tended to be younger and generally had more education.

And although respondents were evenly split on marriage, a majority of Hoosiers said they were against putting a ban on same-sex marriage into the Indiana Constitution.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take on the same-sex marriage issue, a move that puts in limbo any action the state might take anyway.

So it makes sense that Bosma, Senate President Pro Tem David Long and other Republicans may want to rethink whether to take on the marriage amendment this year - or at all.

But it's far less understandable why Bosma appears to be in such a bad mood about it. Is the decision a tough one? Yep. No doubt about it. Is it a surprise that he getting asked about it - and will continue to be asked about it - until he announces a decision? Nope.

That's the nature of controversial issues, something Bosma knows all about it. During his time in leadership, Bosma has dealt with daylight saving time and right to work and school vouchers - some of Indiana's most contentious issues.

And he's generally done so with a fair amount of polish. Over the past two years year, Democrats certainly complained about his handling of right-to-work legislation - which freed workers from paying fees to unions they don't join - - but Bosma seemed to summon patience and even some tolerance dealing with that incredibly touchy situation.

The difference then is he was dealing with a dispute with Democrats and labor unions that don't generally support Republicans. This time, the toughest decisions will have to be made within the Republican caucus.

Bosma has the skills to make that happen with grace. He just has to decide to use them.

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news webs service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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