Socially conservative Republicans look at Jon Elrod's position on gay marriage and question whether he is true to his party.
Democrats look at Elrod's suburban, almost rural upbringing and question whether he is fit to represent an urban congressional district.
And others look at Elrod's life -- an amateur stage actor and former rugby player who studied abroad in London -- and note that he hardly seems a typical Indiana lawmaker, much less a Hoosier Republican.
Elrod, it seems, doesn't mind being seen as a guy willing to thwart convention. By trying to defeat Democrat Andre Carson in a special election March 11 for the 7th District congressional seat, he's clearly bucking conventional wisdom. Carson's grandmother, the iconic Julia Carson, held the seat for a decade until her death in December.
And Elrod was the lone Republican in the Indiana House -- out of 49 -- who refused to sign a petition demanding a floor vote on an amendment that would effectively make gay marriages, already illegal, also unconstitutional. Elrod hasn't had a chance to vote on the matter yet. But he says he is willing to become the first Republican in the General Assembly to vote against the amendment in the four years it has been an issue.
Stalwarts among Hoosier conservatives such as Eric Miller say his stance "puts him at odds" with the Republican Party. Some conservative bloggers have gone as far as to call Elrod a "fake Republican" or a RINO -- Republican in Name Only.
The irony with Elrod's opposition to the marriage amendment is that Elrod said his position is rooted in a basic Christian principle.
"I think marriage is a sacrament. That means it is something ordained by God. To have government dictating what that is is generally a bad idea," he said. "Right now we define marriage pretty poorly by the government. You are married just as long as you want to be. . . . "That is not at all what my church teaches."
Elrod, who is single and a lifelong United Methodist, has seen marriages dissolve in front of him regularly through his law practice, which includes divorce cases. But he said his position on marriage -- that it is a church matter, not a state matter -- is also grounded in the writings of C.S. Lewis, the Christian sage behind "The Chronicles of Narnia," and a host of Christian books.
Elrod grew up attending University Heights United Methodist on the Southside and has more than a casual fascination with church history. He spent three years studying theology at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, mostly out of desire to learn more on a subject he enjoys talking about. He remains a thesis shy of a master's degree.
In recent years, Elrod has been ensconced Downtown at Roberts Park United Methodist, a church with a thriving homeless outreach and more than its share of liberal Democrats, including blogger and Indiana Democratic Party communications director Jennifer Wagner.
Elrod, Wagner said, is a good guy. But don't look for her to provide him campaign ad material. As she puts it, "I've never seen him kicking any puppies."
Elrod, 30, has charted his own course in other ways.
Through high school, college and his adult life, Elrod has played a number of roles on the stage. He was the male lead in "The Gift of the Magi." He was the sword-fighting Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride" and cast as the fastidious Felix in "The Odd Couple."
He played rugby while an undergraduate at Cincinnati's Xavier University, giving it up only after knocking his shoulder out of socket for a third time.
As a history major, he spent a semester studying abroad in northern England at Harlaxton College, where both dorms and living quarters are housed in a 19th century English manor house. He used the location to his advantage, traveling to Scotland, Ireland and Belgium.
As a law student at Indiana University, he spent a semester studying British law in London and serving an internship with a wig-wearing English barrister.
To get the most from the experience, he chose not to live with other Americans but instead stayed in a house with a cluster of students from around the world -- Aussies, New Zealanders and a German, among others. Together, they navigated the quirky London neighborhood of Brixton, known for its African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern immigrants and as home of the mosque where the shoe bomber drew his inspiration . . .
And he said his five-year career in the law -- handling issues such as wills, custody matters, business formations and personal injury cases -- have given him a fundamental knowledge of how laws affect people's lives.