INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Slipped in between the emotional testimony at legislative hearings and arguments from both sides in Indiana's gay marriage battle this past month has been the surprising revelation that Indiana lawmakers have become increasingly more reliant on "locking" down their preferred policies by placing them in the state constitution.
The power players on both sides of the marriage fight are well-known by this point. Activists with Freedom Indiana have packed both House hearings on the issue this month, wearing red shirts and other clothing to signal their opposition to the proposed ban, House Joint Resolution 3. Religious conservatives led by a trio of Statehouse lobbyists with deep ties in Republican circles have quietly and successfully used the levers of power to advance the ban through the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, DePauw University student Mickey Terlep has quietly worked the halls of the Statehouse over the past few weeks, delivering research that shows the history of alterations to the state's constitution. He completed the research with fellow DePauw student Leif Anderson.
Carrying a chart of the alterations made to the state constitution since it was written in 1851, Terlep has outlined how changes for many years consisted of conforming with federal amendments (such as granting African-Americans and women the right to vote) or altering the structure of government (such as allowing governors to serve to serve two consecutive terms.)
But a new trend has emerged, Terlep says: Lawmakers are increasingly using the state's constitution to write laws instead of following the traditional process of passing bills through the House and Senate on their way to the governor's desk and eventually the state code.
"This transformation raises the question: 'Why have lawmakers sought to use constitutional amendments as a means for enacting specific public policies?'" Terlep told members of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee last week. A few minutes later the committee voted 9-3 along party lines to send the proposal to the House for consideration.