Freedom Indiana enlists support to defeat same sex ban in Indiana Constitution

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - The fight over same sex marriage in Indiana came to Fort Wayne and Muncie on Saturday in search of preserving equal protection under the law. Freedom Indiana, that supports same sex marriage and opposes the ban against it in the Indiana Constitution, held a rally in the Summit City and talked with social activists in Muncie about telling their lawmakers to oppose the constitutional amendment banning it and other similar unions.

Rick Sutton, representing the group that includes Eli Lilly, Cummins, Emmis and others, said more lawmakers were switching to oppose putting the constitutional ban on the ballot, but those in favor of tolerance were ready to fight it at the polls in the fall.

"We have never talked about taking civil rights away from people," said Sutton, when it comes to constitutional amendments.

And constitutional amendments are few and far between in Indiana as Republican lawmakers and now Republican Gov. Mike Pence wants Hoosiers to decide the issue. As Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, said, Minnesota lawmakers put the same sex question on the ballot and voters rejected a ban. Then the Minnesota legislature upheld same sex marriage and benefits.

However, a U.S. Supreme Court justice issued an order Monday stopping same sex marriage in Utah and had no objections from other justices. The latest episode from the Supreme Court was after justices threw out the federal defense of marriage act last year, but still allowed California to decide the issue.

Sutton was confident the Republican controlled legislature was close to letting the issue die. But only a handful of Republicans who hold super majorities in the House and Senate say they are no longer interested in letting voters decide to put the ban in the Constitution.

And there's been no statement from leadership that will happen. Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, recently said he had mixed opinions and found his constituents opposed the ban after he supported the amendment three years ago.

Republican lawmaker Jack Lutz of Anderson who represents Yorktown, recently said voters could decide the issue, adding it would take more than 20 Republican House members to change their minds before stopping the ban on the ballot. In 2011, the ban saw a House vote of 70-26 and the Senate passed it 40-10.

Freedom Indiana organizers like Ali Zuidervliet encouraged local activists like musican Steve Robert and League of Women Voters member Lynn Hale to write letters and communicate with lawmakers to end the ban. While Freedom Indiana has deep pockets from big corporate sponsors, faith and conservative groups like Advance America, led by Eric Miller, also is spending money on television commercials to put the ban on the ballot.

Locally, Mayor Dennis Tyler, a former lawmaker, supports equal protection for same sex couples and Muncie City Council also plans to oppose the constitutional ban. Muncie City Council member Linda Gregory offered the resolution that was sponsored by council member Doug Marshall. Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora also supports same sex marriage and benefits for those couples and Indiana University was among several campuses supporting equal protection under the law.

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