The Indiana Senate’s elected members and its walls have felt a certain tension this week. Many waited to see if voters would have their own say on House Joint Resolution 3 this fall. After a quick session at 2 p.m. today, however, the tension broke: HJR-3 is basically dead in the water, at least this year. It was an outcome that might have been unthinkable six months ago.
“Avoiding the [November] referendum is a huge victory for this campaign,” Megan Robertson, Freedom Indiana campaign manager, tells IM of her organization’s efforts. “The fact that nobody even brought up the amendment that would put the second sentence back in shows that there was no support for it.”
While the bill still has some final Ts to be crossed, the lack of amendments today put the measure in a “checkmate” position for 2014. Both the Senate and the House would have had to agree on the original language of the bill for it to move onto ballots this fall.
“[A referendum] wouldn’t reflect well on our state and it wouldn’t reflect our core values,” says Robertson. “As Hoosiers, we are known for our hospitality, and it would send the wrong message to people both in the state and out of the state.”
Because the House struck the bill’s second sentence—pertaining to civil unions, domestic partnerships, and related benefits—and the Senate upheld that decision (by not adding any new amendments), the legislative process has to essentially start over. That second sentence would have constitutionally banned civil unions in addition to same-sex marriages.
Three amendments to the bill were filed this morning, making HJR-3 opponents concerned that it would be introduced on the floor, perhaps going on to overturn their small victory in the House. Two amendments were filed by Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) and Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) that asked for the second sentence to be reinstated. The third was from Sen. Joe Zakas (R-Granger), requesting that the word “one” in the phrase “one man and one woman” be struck. None of these amendments ultimately came before the full Senate today.
Before the Senate’s session this afternoon, HJR-3 supporters and opponents blended in the Statehouse halls. Supporters shouted, “Let the people vote!” at one point while the measure’s foes sang songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” and “Lean On Me.”
“It is a big victory but not a complete victory because the amendment still exists,” Jennifer Wagner, a spokesperson for Freedom Indiana, tells IM. “What happened today could never have happened six months ago, and didn’t happen three years ago when the first version of this was passed.”
The change in opinion has shocked organizers and lawmakers alike. Senate Minority leader Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) told IM earlier this week that he feels the issue will not survive another year.
Public perception is perhaps becoming more evenly divided every day.
“I have been working in politics for seven or eight years, and I have never seen a campaign like this,” says Wagner. “I have never seen something come together this quickly or involve this many people.”
Robertson and Freedom Indiana staff considered the vote to be a “huge grassroots victory.”
“Everything that we did was in a methodical way,” Robertson says of the campaign’s path over the past six months. A question remains: Is Freedom Indiana here to stay?
“What I am willing to say is that we are certainly in a good position with HJR-3,” says Robertson. “Hopefully this is the last we hear of it, but if it’s not, then we will be back to fight it.”
“Freedom Indiana is too important,” says Wagner. “It is too big of a coalition to let it cease to exist. Obviously the amendment is still out there so we have something to fight against. We have this incredible coalition of people who have come together under the umbrella of Freedom Indiana. We aren’t going to let that go.”