By John Sittler
The debate over a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage heated up Wednesday as a group backing the proposal began airing TV commercials in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne markets.
The ads from Advance America feature Hoosiers calling on legislators to let them vote on the amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The House and Senate have already approved House Joint Resolution 6 once. If it the measure passes again this year, it would put it on the ballot in November for possible ratification by voters.
Advance America Founder Eric Miller said the ads simply say, "the legislators should approve HJR-6 as they did in 2011 so the people have the right to vote on it, as citizens have in over 30 other states."
Freedom Indiana, a group trying to stop the amendment, delivered more than 6,000 letters opposing HJR-6 to the Statehouse on Tuesday.
"We believe lawmakers will hear the voices of their friends, neighbors and constituents over television ads funded by special interest groups," said Freedom Indiana's campaign manager, Megan Robertson.
Advance America picked Indianapolis and Fort Wayne as its initial markets for the ads because that reaches 65-75 percent of the state's population, Miller said.
Both ads are available on Advance America's website, where viewers will have the option to either download or share them on social media. Miller said social media will allow his organization to quickly and easily reach all 92 Indiana counties.
The ads complement the efforts of Advance America's grassroots network, which is comprised of more than 45,000 families and 3,700 churches across the state.
While the group's mass media campaign is currently limited to the two television spots, Miller said Advance America may explore running them in other markets - such as South Bend and Southern Indiana - as well. He also said the group plans to have radio ads.
Robertson said Freedom Indiana supporters have made hundreds of thousands of phone calls and, "We'll make hundreds of thousands more because we know Hoosiers don't want this divisive language written into our state's founding document."
In response to Freedom Indiana's campaign, Miller said, "I think there will be a tremendous amount of money spent by those who approve the amendment."
But, he said, "We will spend enough money to get the message out to the people of Indiana."
John Sittler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.