Indiana Democrats Are Worried Their Candidates Aren’t Pro-Gay Marriage Enough

Progressives say John Gregg and Baron Hill’s stances on same-sex marriage don’t reflect their states’ move to the left.

National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
Add to Briefcase
Karyn Bruggeman
June 4, 2015, 4 p.m.

Pub­lic opin­ion is mov­ing so quickly on gay mar­riage that even its sup­port­ers are strug­gling to keep up.

Such in the case in In­di­ana, which was at the cen­ter of the na­tion­al LGBT-rights de­bate this spring after a “re­li­gious free­dom” bill was met with over­whelm­ing op­pos­i­tion from voters and busi­ness lead­ers. In a state where same-sex mar­riage only be­come leg­al in 2014, this year’s back­lash against the meas­ure was an un­pleas­ant sur­prise for state Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing Gov. Mike Pence, whose im­age and ap­prov­al suffered in the wake of the con­tro­versy.

Now, with two statewide races loom­ing in 2016, some In­di­ana Demo­crats are won­der­ing if they too are lag­ging be­hind pub­lic opin­ion. Former Demo­crat­ic Rep. Bar­on Hill form­ally an­nounced his in­ten­tion to run for Sen­ate on Wed­nes­day, and former In­di­ana State House Speak­er John Gregg said in late April he would chal­lenge Gov. Mike Pence a second time after nar­rowly los­ing to him in 2012.

Neither can­did­ate, however, has a par­tic­u­larly pro­gress­ive re­cord on LGBT rights, and while some in the party say that’s still a polit­ic­ally ad­vant­age­ous po­s­i­tion for middle-of-the-road In­di­ana—oth­ers are wor­ried that the can­did­ates’ lack of pro­gress­ive cre­den­tials would hamper their bids.

In his 2012 cam­paign, Gregg sup­por­ted a pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to ban same-sex mar­riage, and told the ed­it­or­i­al board of The In­di­ana­pol­is Star, “I’ve nev­er hid­den from my con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tion on so­cial is­sues.” In the 2006 cam­paign for his former House seat, Hill ran a TV ad stat­ing “mar­riage between a man and wo­man is sac­red.”

In 2015, some Demo­crats now ques­tion wheth­er Gregg in par­tic­u­lar can serve as an ef­fect­ive foil against Pence on any LGBT rights is­sue giv­en his his­tory same-sex mar­riage, ques­tion­ing wheth­er he’s cap­able of build­ing on any mo­mentum the party gained after the re­li­gious free­dom de­bate. In his cam­paign launch video this year, Gregg em­phas­ized Pence’s weak­ness on the is­sue, say­ing Pence “man­aged to ali­en­ate the en­tire coun­try,” and called it “an em­bar­rass­ment, and wrong.”

But Aaron Schaler, former pres­id­ent of the In­di­ana Stone­wall Demo­crats, saw Gregg’s launch mes­sage as disin­genu­ous. “I think John Gregg is try­ing to run off of Free­dom In­di­ana’s suc­cess with the re­li­gious free­dom bill. That’s all he’s try­ing to do. He’s just piggy­back­ing off someone else,” Schaler said.

Gregg cam­paign spokes­man Jeff Har­ris hopes voters will eval­u­ate Gregg based on what he’s said since the start of the most re­cent cam­paign, and not on the past. “He fully sup­ports re­peal­ing RFRA, the re­li­gious free­dom bill. He sup­ports ex­pand­ing civil rights pro­tec­tions to in­clude LGBT as well as sexu­al iden­tity, and he has stated over and over again that he’s go­ing to be fo­cus­ing on eco­nom­ic is­sues. In In­di­ana the law of the land is to al­low same-sex mar­riage, and he sup­ports that, and as gov­ernor he’s not go­ing to fo­cus on so­cial is­sues, he’s mov­ing ahead,” Har­ris said.

“He’s there on those is­sues for those folks, and there’s a very small minor­ity of people who want to use that de­grade his po­s­i­tion or try to lump him in a box that he’s not there on,” Har­ris con­tin­ued.

In a sign of the chan­ging times, Gregg’s mod­er­a­tion on so­cial is­sues was thought to be part of what helped him run com­pet­it­ively against Pence in 2012. “Now here we are three years later and a ma­jor­ity of the Demo­crat­ic Party here in In­di­ana clearly sup­ports gay mar­riage. So, it has moved. The ques­tion is how much has Gregg moved,” said Dan Park­er, a former chair­man of the In­di­ana Demo­crat­ic Party.

“There has been a tre­mend­ous push­back against his can­did­acy com­ing from the pro­gress­ive left. Ac­tu­ally, I wouldn’t even say it’s the left any­more, it’s the left-cen­ter of the Demo­crat­ic Party. There’s just a re­cog­ni­tion from the en­tire party that there are cer­tain is­sues that you need to be with the ma­jor­ity of the party on,” Park­er said.

Gregg will face at least two op­pon­ents in the Demo­crat­ic primary, both of whom are farther to the left on so­cial is­sues and sup­port gay mar­riage. State Sen. Kar­en Tal­li­an an­nounced her can­did­acy in May, and In­di­ana’s school su­per­in­tend­ent Gl­enda Ritz is ex­pec­ted to join the Demo­crat­ic primary on Thursday. In Ritz’s brief polit­ic­al ca­reer she has rarely weighed in on is­sues out­side those in­volving edu­ca­tion policy, but Ritz spokes­per­son Leslie Barnes said Ritz “ab­so­lutely” sup­ports same-sex mar­riage. Barnes also noted Ritz sup­ports abor­tion rights.

“That could be a point that di­vides the can­did­ates,” Barnes said. Barnes has a trans­gender son and said Ritz’s sup­port for same-sex mar­riage was part of what mo­tiv­ated to get in­volved with her cam­paign.

Schaler cau­tioned that even though Gregg is seen as too con­ser­vat­ive by some Demo­crats, he will be tough to beat in a primary. Gregg is a more seasoned cam­paign­er and fun­draiser, and has close ties to or­gan­ized labor. If Gregg is seen as too con­ser­vat­ive, Tal­li­an is likely to be viewed with equal skep­ti­cism be­cause of her lib­er­al po­s­i­tions.

“I think Kar­en Tal­li­an is amaz­ing. Un­for­tu­nately she is the pot prin­cess here in In­di­ana,” Schaler said. Tal­li­an has been known best in re­cent years for her work on bills seek­ing to loosen In­di­ana’s marijuana laws. “If Hoo­siers are only halfway on mar­riage equal­ity, where do you think they are on leg­al­iz­ing marijuana?”

In the up­com­ing Sen­ate race to fill the seat left be­hind by re­tir­ing Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Dan Coats, former Rep. Bar­on Hill is the only de­clared Demo­crat, but state Rep. Christina Hale, who was a vo­cal op­pon­ent of the re­li­gious free­dom bill, is widely ex­pec­ted to run. Hale is an up-and-com­ing fa­vor­ite of Demo­crats in In­di­ana­pol­is. Though Hill’s ex­per­i­ence in Con­gress makes him an early fa­vor­ite, Hale is ex­pec­ted to be a ser­i­ous con­tender.

Hill, like Gregg, could face trouble gal­van­iz­ing sup­port among more pro­gress­ive Demo­crats, but the re­l­at­ive ab­sence of the re­li­gious free­dom is­sue in the Sen­ate race and Hill’s longer time away from pub­lic of­fice could give him more of a pass from Demo­crats if he demon­strates an evol­u­tion on the is­sue.

Loc­al Demo­crats aren’t the only ones pay­ing at­ten­tion to the is­sue in the Sen­ate and gubernat­ori­al primar­ies. Na­tion­al groups, in­clud­ing EMILY’s List and Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, also are keep­ing a close watch on the two races, and the op­por­tun­ity to po­ten­tially sup­port Hale, Ritz, or Tal­li­an. Though EMILY’s List’s primary fo­cus is on elect­ing fe­male Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates who sup­port abor­tion rights, they’ve touted can­did­ate’s po­s­i­tions on gay mar­riage un­der the broad­er um­brella of gender equal­ity.

“In­di­ana could use some com­mon sense lead­er­ship from Demo­crat­ic wo­men lead­ers. We’re keep­ing an eye on both the gov­ernor and Sen­ate races and are ex­cited about the op­por­tun­it­ies in 2016,” said EMILY’s List spokes­per­son Rachel Thomas.

What We're Following See More »
“HOLY HELL TO PAY” IF TRUMP FIRES A.G.
Sen. Graham Supporting Sessions
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Sen. Lindsay Graham said he is '100 percent behind' embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and said there would be 'holy hell to pay' if President Donald Trump fires him. Graham also said that if the president went after special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who’s directing the investigation into possible contacts between Trump’s circle and Russia, that could be the 'beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.'"

Source:
AMiDST COMMS STAFF SHAKEUP
Sanders New WH Press Secretary
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"With little pomp or circumstance, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepped up to the briefing room podium and got straight to business Friday, reading announcements about "Made in America Week" and a new executive order on defense. Minutes later, newly minted communications director Anthony Scaramucci announced she was formally taking over as White House press secretary. In the aftermath of a chaotic communications staff shakeup at the White House last week, there was little attention paid to a new milestone as Sanders assumed the role."

Source:
JOINT CHIEFS TO KEEP POLICY UNTIL GIVEN DIRECTIONS
No Instructions to Pentagon, No Change in Transgender Policy
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The highest ranking military officer in the country said that the military’s transgender policy won’t actively change until President Trump sends specific directions to the Pentagon. 'There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,' Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in a letter."

Source:
TO INVICTUS GAMES IN CANADA
FLOTUS First Trip Solo
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
SCARAMUCCI INSINUATED PRIEBUS LEAKED INFO
Two of Trump’s Top Advisors Feuding
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A long-simmering feud between two of President Trump’s top advisers reached a boiling point Thursday, as White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci publicly insinuated that chief of staff Reince Priebus is a leaker."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login