Gay-marriage opponents irate, no action on court ruling

BY SHAWN GUDE | APRIL 07, 2009 7:30 AM

When last week’s gay-marriage ruling was handed down last week, opponents in the Iowa Legislature were predictably outraged.

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, led the charge, calling for immediate action on the decision.

“Though the court has made its decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter, and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a constitutional amendment that protects traditional marriage,” McKinley said in a statement.

But opponents likely don’t have a chance at usurping the ruling.

The budget-consumed session is now in its final days, and Democrats control both chambers, as well as the governorship. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate — who largely control which legislation comes to the floor for a vote — hailed the ruling as “guaranteeing all of our citizens’ equal rights” and have said they likely won’t bring the issue up.

That hasn’t stopped contenders, however.

Two lawmakers who are opponents of gay marriage — Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull, and Rep. Dolores Mertz, D-Ottosen — pre-emptively filed a House joint resolution last month that would seek to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, urged Democratic leaders to bring the resolution to the floor for a vote, predicting the House would approve it.

Despite Democratic statements to the contrary, he held out hope leaders would dojust that.

“I think it’s certainly within the realm of possibility,” he said. “I think [Iowans] expect and almost demand a reaction to this decision.”

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he was still in the process of reviewing the ruling and is unsure whether the Legislature will take action on the case before the end of the session.

“I honestly do not know,” he said. “Those discussions are still taking place.”

In order to amend the Iowa Constitution, lawmakers in both chambers must pass an amendment in consecutive General Assemblies. If the majority of voters approve the amendment, it is inserted into the Constitution.

An additional avenue for amending the state Constitution is through a constitutional convention. At the end of every decade, voters are asked whether there should be a convention to revise the Constitution. If they opt to, legislators would be tasked with putting a convention together.
Iowans could then vote to amend the Constitution in a special election.

According to a UI Hawkeye Poll released last week, roughly 36 percent of Iowans oppose both gay marriage and civil unions. More than one-fourth said they supported gay marriage, and approximately 28 percent of respondents backed civil unions.

Still, Roberts remained skeptical about the merits of polling on the issue.

“I think anyone that points to a survey or poll at this point or describes this as a partisan issue greatly misreads where the public in Iowa is on this,” said Roberts, and he expects the issue to greatly affect the 2010 elections.

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