INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Kevin Mahan expected to be inundated with calls and emails from advocates in Indiana’s big cities demanding that he oppose the state’s same-sex marriage amendment.
Mahan said he was more struck in the months before the vote by the pastors and church elders who bent his ear in his district in east-central Indiana, as well as neighbors from Catholic and Protestant congregations in Hartford City, the small farming community where he lives. They wanted Mahan, a Republican, to know they didn’t like the idea of amending the constitution to lock in a law outlawing same-sex marriages and civil unions.
Mahan, who describes himself as a Christian who “goes to church every chance I get,” voted for the amendment two years ago when it sailed through the Republican-controlled House on a 70-26 vote. He hadn’t expected to change his view when it came up again.
On Monday, during debate on House Joint Resolution 3, Mahan offered an impassioned plea to pull the language banning civil unions from the measure. He cited the pleas of his faithful constituents, which reflect polls showing diminishing support for the amendment statewide.
In a decade since the marriage amendment was first proposed, the conventional view has held that it pits religious forces against secular proponents of marriage equality for gays and lesbians. While religious beliefs still infuse arguments for the amendment, the changing minds of voters and some legislators may be a testament to liberal and moderate clergy — and their followers — who’ve used the language of faith to counter the moral claims of amendment supporters.“I’d go to my son’s basketball game, and I’d have folks whom I know are Christians and leaders in their churches want to sit with me and spend an entire quarter of a basketball game in a high school gym talking about this,” Mahan said earlier this week. “They’d say, ‘I used to support this but now I don’t.’ I had listen to that stuff.”On Monday, 51 of Mahan’s colleagues, including 22 Republicans, agreed with him. Their vote left intact the ban on gay marriage, but the change in the resolution’s language to remove civil unions could delay or derail the amendment by keeping it off the November ballot. Two separately elected legislatures must approve a proposed constitutional amendment — of the exact same wording — before it goes to voters for ratification.