Megan Robertson, left, lead a fight against the a platform plank that endorsed traditional marriage.
Photo by Alec Gray, The Statehouse File
Delegates at the State Republican Convention approved a party platform Saturday that calls families based on marriage between a man and woman the "foundation of society."
Opponents of the marriage language offered an amendment to strip it from the platform and replace it with a plank that called strong families "the foundation of virtue" but didn't attempt to define what makes a family.
But in what the convention's chairman called "standing votes," the amendment failed and the platform passed easily. There were no vote totals. Instead, the convention chairman - Ed Simcox - called the outcome by sight, saying the results were obvious.
Megan Robertson, who led the legislative fight earlier this year against a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, had been working the crowd Saturday to defeat the platform language. She passed out green stickers that said "Grow our party, don't divide it."
She said after the vote that the platform is "harmful to our ability to bring new people to the party." She called the marriage issue a "litmus test" for many young voters.
"If we're trying to appeal to the people in this room, OK, that might have worked out all right," Robertson said. "But we're a political organization. Our job is to win elections and I don't think this helps us do that."
But U. S. Rep Todd Rokita, R-4th District, said he's not concerned that the platform fight will cause problems for the party. He said the discussion is healthy.
"This is debate. This is transparent," Rokita said. "We just had amendments put up on a big screen. None of this was attempted to be done in the dark of night. And I think that's a difference the Republican Party brings to the state of Indiana."
The platform - which also included provisions supporting gun rights, low taxes, school vouchers and clean coal technology - is the result of five public meetings and input from nearly 400 Hoosiers. It was drafted by a platform committee and all its planks were approved by the group unanimously - except the marriage language.
That plank said that Republicans "believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society. We also recognize that some families are much more diverse and we support the blended families, grandparents, guardians and loving adults who successfully raise and nurture children to reach their full potential every day."
Tom John, a former chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, offered the amendment Saturday to change the language. "We are united by so many things," John told the delegates. "This is one thing that divides us. Can we all focus on things that unite us and step away from those things that divide us?"
The proposal would have stripped the platform's original marriage language and replaced it with the following: "We believe that strong families are the foundation of virtue and that such families bring forth citizens capable of self government as well as properly motivated public servants so essential for a successful republic."
But Michael Dora of Rush County told delegates that those pushing an amendment were trying to confuse them with inaccurate information.
"We should always treat people with grace, love and dignity," Dora said. "That doesn't mean abandoning our principles. Vote yes on the platform, no on the amendment."
Dora and others who supported the original platform language wore stickers that read, "Pro Pence, Pro Marriage," referring to Gov. Mike Pence, who sent a letter to delegates saying that he backed it as well.
House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis, Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne and U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman of the state's 3rd District had also announced support for the platform as approved Saturday.
Lynn Wegmann, a delegate from Fort Wayne, said he supports the original platform language because children raised by a mother and father "have a much better chance of becoming responsible, law abiding, productive members of society."
"I'm not opposed to other types of relationships," Wegmann said. "I'm opposed to the marriage relationship being redefined because it's the definition of marriage that I'm concerned about."
Teresa Martin of Silver Lake said her support of traditional marriage is also based in her beliefs about children.
"If the home fails, the country fails and it goes on and on," Martin said. "The foundation needs to be strong. You cannot build a building with a weak foundation and the children's foundation needs to be strong with both parents being a mother and a father."
But there were party leaders who opposed the platform as well. Michael O'Brien, chairman of the Hendricks County Republican Party, said he believes politics should be "about addition, not subtraction, about telling people why they ought to be Republicans, not why they're not because of what they believe."
"We've seen at the national level that we really need to focus on expanding the tent and bringing in non-traditional voters, reaching out to young people," O'Brien said. "We know that the next generation of voters are supportive of marriage equality and we shouldn't be pushing them out of the party because of it."
And Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said Republicans are "beating a dead horse with insistence of including this in the platform."
"Republicans traditionally have been a very inclusive party," Smith said. "We've been focused on infrastructure and growth in a growing economy and I really think we need to refocus back on those growth issues for the United States."
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.