Some quick background
Indiana law says a proposed constitutional amendment must pass two consecutively elected legislatures before being put to referendum. The language must remain the same. If even a period is out of place, the process has to start all over again. The fastest an amendment can pass in Indiana is three years; it can take up to five.
The amendment passed the House and Senate in 2005. There was an election in 2006 and the amendment could be voted on again. In 2007 it passed the Senate but stalled in committee in the House.
This year is the last year they can pass the amendment - unchanged - to advance the legislation to the ballot referendum. If it doesn't advance, proponents have to start over again from the beginning.
So far, the amendment has passed a Senate committee (even though it doesn't have to pass the Senate again since it did last year), but not the full Senate. The Speaker of the House assigned the amendment to committee, but the committee chairman said it would not get a hearing.
No hearing = no advancement. I stand by what I wrote; SJR-7 is dead.
The latest round
Now House Republicans have decided to give the issue one last college try. They're attaching the language of SJR-7 as an amendment to legislation about property taxes. (Strangely enough, also a constitutional amendment itself.)
The gay community is in an uproar now that SJR-7 is back and will pass and we'll be facing a referendum next year. I'm calling bullshit.
The amendment has to pass with the same language. By adding it to other legislation, by default you're changing the language.
Even if it does pass
More than likely, SJR-7 will pass the Senate again this year. It passed in committee and it's passed every other time it went in front of the Senate - by large margins. Without the House's approval though, the Senate's vote doesn't matter. That's why they're doing it again this year - as a way to try and pressure the House to hold hearings.
While it could pass the legislature this year as an amendment on an amendment, it still wouldn't be on the ballot this November.
Instead, it would have passed the House once with the same language. The Senate would also have to pass the property tax amendment with SJR-7's text attached to it. Then the clock would start over. Both amendments would have to pass a separately elected legislature next time as well. Then we make it to the ballot box.
What will probably happen
The Speaker will rule the amendment not germane to the property tax legislation. End of story.
He wants to show movement on property taxes. Democrats can always claim Republicans are trying to hijack property tax momentum to pick on gays and lesbians. While the Republicans will try to claim Democrats sabotaged property taxes, the public is no mood for chicanery.
With the country sweeping Blue by the moment, they'd love a chance to tie Indiana Republicans to the legacy of BushCo.
My advice? Call your representative. Tell your story and urge them to decry the right-wing tactics of attacking the LGBT community to try and drive voters.
But don't fall for the "The sky is falling!" routine. If we're going to call out Republicans for hyperbole and grandstanding, we shouldn't be either. Especially not in snotty ways only meant to establish themselves as the sole authorities to be listened to.
Let's remember that while the right makes money off of "cross-dressers and homosexual" alerts, we make our money off of Republican hijinks. Look for the fundraising to start soon.
[UPDATE #1 - 5:18pm]
Well that didn't take long for two predictions to come true.
I flipped over to my e-mail inbox to find this e-mail from a former Indiana Equality leader to the local gay mailing list:
On a related topic....
It is--and always has been--in our community's best interest to have the Lambda Consulting guys (Mark St. John and John Joanette) in the statehouse, watching out and lobbying for us. They're pros, with extensive knowledge of the legislative process and the cast of characters in the Indiana legislature, personal acquaintance with a large number of legislators on both sides of the aisle, and excellent relations with the leaders of a number of progressive, civil-rights, and family-issue organizations on the state and national levels that can be counted on to lend assistance when needed.
The fact that we found out so quickly about this latest shenanigan on the part of the anti-GLBT Right and its creatures in the legislature is due to Lambda Consulting's presence in the statehouse with eyes and ears open, having already mapped out the opposition's options and likely moves, and with access to channels of information that most other folks don't.
They can work for our community and remain on guard for our interests because we pay them--through Indiana Equality--to do that invaluable work. If you have the ability to host or co-host a house party to benefit IE or the IE Education Fund, think seriously now about sharing the glory of having helped keep these guys working for us during these times of peril and of opportunity.
There's prediction #1. Time to fulfillment: long enough to flip from my browser to my inbox.
The fundraising has started before the alarm bells are finished ringing.
Then IE sent out an alert that reads:
At 2:29 PM today, the Indiana Senate passed the "Marrriage Discrimination Amendment" - Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR-7) by a vote of 39 to 9 (two Senators were excused).
Voting NO were nine Senators - Breaux, Broden, Errington, Lanane, Rogers, Simpson, Sipes, Smith, and Tallian. Please take a minute to thank these brave senators for their NO vote on SJR-7 (click on their names to be taken to their websites).
Senator Glenn Howard was excused due to health reasons, and would have been a 10th NO vote. Senator Ford was also excused for health reasons.
Passage of SJR-7 by the Senate keeps this harmful legislation in play and sets the stage for a possible ballot initiative this year. If approved by the electorate, SJR-7 will forever write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution, affecting thousands of Hoosier families.
This bill now makes its way to the Indiana House of Representatives for consideration. Leadership in the House has talked about not hearing SJR-7 in 2008, but we need your help to to keep up the pressure on our elected officials and ensure that we keep this bill from progressing any further!
Watch your e-mail for up-to-the-minute information on SJR-7
and ways to take action in the coming days.
Bookmark the Indiana Equality blog for more details as they unfold.
If you think our efforts are making a difference, would you please support Indiana Equality with a small gift using our secure donation website? Our opposition is well-funded and it takes contributions from people like yourself to keep the pressure on and to fight the fight! DONATE NOW.
And there is prediction #2. Time to completion: About 45 minutes
It passed the Senate like everyone knew it would. Notice the fundraising appeal even though the House says they won't hear it.
Then again, when has our leading community organization actually shared that bit of good news about the House committee with their members? Oh. That's right. They haven't.
It's hard to ring alarm bells and clang the fundraising bucket that way.
[UPDATE #2 - Jan 30 11:00am]
Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana is reporting:
House Assistant Republican Leader Eric Turner sacrificed Gov. Mitch Daniels' constitutional amendment to limit property taxes on homeowners last night by trying to tack the marriage amendment on to it. Speaker Bauer pulled consideration of HJR-1 last night, effectively killing it in the House. Now we know that the House Republicans place a higher priority on promoting discrimination against gays than finding solutions to the problem of rising property taxes.
The Speaker pulled the entire amendment - including the inserted language of SJR-7.
Now I hate to point out the obvious, but that would have to be counted as Prediction #3. Time to completion: About 6 hours
I'm sure the fundraisers will let us know that sometime soon. No rush though. After all, who needs all of the updates instead of just the scare tactics that'll bring in more cash? Is that why there hasn't been important announcements to listserves and their mailing list?
You'll have to count on us darn bloggers, I guess. After all, Advance Indiana, Blue Indiana, Taking Down Words, Hoosier Access, Masson's Blog, and others have all reported the same thing:
The marriage amendment is dead. The rest is Weekend at
Be vigilant. But don't be hoodwinked by scare tactics either...