A group of strange bedfellows in Indiana is fighting a push by state lawmakers to tighten the already strict gay marriage ban there.
The group, Freedom Indiana, is run by a Republican operative and includes two corporate giants headquartered in Indiana: the Eli Lilly Company, the pharmaceutical concern, and Cummins, Inc., the diesel engine manufacturer.
“We’ve understood that embracing diverse backgrounds makes our company more competitive,” Jon Mills, external communications director for Cummins, told TPM on Wednesday. “We think it just creates a stronger and more competitive work environment.”
The group, which formally launched Wednesday at an event in downtown Indianapolis, is fighting state House Joint Resolution No.6 (HJR-6), which aims to put a ban on gay marriage into the Indiana state Constitution. Indiana already bans gay marriage by statute.
Gov. Mike Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma, and Senate President David Long — all Indiana Republicans — and other members of the state legislature have expressed support for HJR-6. The amendment will go before the General Assembly early next year and, if it passes, it would go on Indiana’s November 2014 ballot.
“We think putting this language in our state’s most important document would create a barrier to recruiting this talent,” Rob Smith, senior director for corporate responsibility for Eli Lilly and Company, told TPM. Smith warned that if the amendment passed it would produce an “extensive, divisive campaign” around the 2014 November elections.
Freedom Indiana is headed up by Megan Robertson, a Republican consultant who carries the title of campaign manager and will direct Freedom Indiana’s fundraising efforts and push for supporters to lobby lawmakers against the amendment.
“I think frankly it takes a unique coalition to be successful on this issue. Obviously Indiana is a red state but Hoosiers are known for their hospitality,” Robertson told TPM. “Writing this amendment into this constitution doesn’t give off this vibe.”
Robertson previously managed Rep. Luke Messer’s (R-IN) congressional campaign and served as his communications director. She was also political director for Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN). Neither Messer nor Coats supports gay marriage.
Robertson declined to divulge her personal stance on same-sex marriage.
“I don’t feel like my personal opinion matters on this much,” she said. “The campaign is focused on this amendment. Of course this leads to a larger conversation. Of course many people working on this issue, including me, want to see Indiana move more toward equality.”
The current ban is already strict. Right now in Indiana it’s a felony for gay couples to apply for a marriage license and a clergy member would face a misdemeanor charge solemnizing the union.
“It’s the most aggressive that’s out there right now,” Robertson said.
Reached for comment on Freedom Indiana, Bosma’s office passed along his statement from when the Supreme Court passed down two key rulings on same sex marriage in June.
“Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana,” Bosma’s statement said. “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”