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Column: Marriage amendment created GOP family feud


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Now that the smoke has begun to clear from the fight over the attempt to add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, a few things have become evident.

The most obvious is that any further consideration by the Indiana General Assembly probably won’t come until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of such bans at the state level.

Kentucky’s state constitutional ban, which has virtually the same language as the remaining language in Indiana’s proposed ban, was called into question a few weeks ago when a federal court ruled the state couldn’t refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Kentucky now is appealing that decision, so the Supreme Court, which already has struck down a federal same-sex-marriage ban, most likely will have to make a decision in regard to such bans at the state level.

If the court rules before the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers and voters in Indiana will be able to make decisions with a lot less uncertainty.

That might decide the larger fight. But there was a smaller fight, too, the nature of which was obscured by the smoke of battle.

That fight was about who controls the state Republican Party — the business community or social conservatives.

And the winner seems to be the business community.

For social conservatives, House Joint Resolution 3, the proposed ban, was their line in the sand. They wanted to engrave a ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions into the state’s fundamental law.

Most members of the Indiana business community abhorred the ban. They thought it would make it harder for them to recruit talented employees and that it would tell the rest of the country and world to shop and do business elsewhere.

The business community and the social conservatives are the two largest and most important constituencies in the GOP. The business community tends to provide most of the money for Republican campaigns, and social conservatives provide a lot of the energy.

Either way Republicans went they were bound to disappoint a significant number of their friends.

But they had to choose, and they did.

In the end, Republican leadership (and Republicans in the Senate, in particular) lined up with the business community.

The House stripped out the civil-union language that social conservatives wanted. Senate Republicans refused to let attempts to reinsert the language make it out of their caucus. In the process, they reset the clock so that the ban couldn’t make it on the ballot this year. Now, it’s doubtful that it ever will.

Family fights can be the most vicious. This one proves that.

It’s hard to know exactly what set off the Twitter rampage and bizarre news conference by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, that led to his banishment from his own caucus; but at least one factor was anger over the way his fellow Republicans had stiff-armed social conservatives.

When Delph railed against Republican leadership that only pretended to be conservative on Twitter and then said, plaintively, in his news conference that, if a gay marriage ban couldn’t move with GOP supermajorities in the both chambers and a supportive governor, it wasn’t ever going to move, he was asking who ran the party and what it stood for.

Business leaders responded in kind.

In a biting column in his paper, Indianapolis Business Journal Corp. and National Bank of Indianapolis chairman Mickey Maurer called Delph a bigot.

In a follow-up column, Maurer, who was Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ secretary of commerce, called for business leaders to work together to drive Delph from office the next time he’s on the ballot.

That’s sending a pretty strong signal.

Social conservatives really had only one opportunity to push back. And they missed it.

They could have found candidates to challenge Republican lawmakers who weren’t going to vote their way on HJR 3 in the May primary, but when the filing deadline came and went with only a very few unimpressive challengers on board, the fight was over.

Now the question that remains is how long the hard feelings will linger. Judging from the rhetoric, it could be quite a while.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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