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Gay marriage at risk in Iowa

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | FEBRUARY 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Democrats in the Iowa Legislature have vowed to protect same-sex marriage by blocking legislation aimed at nullifying last year’s Iowa Supreme Court decision.

However, procedural rules in the Iowa House of Representatives could force members to vote on the issue this session.

Both the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House have seen bills which would amend Iowa’s Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Democrats have responded by saying they won’t allow the bills to advance out of committee.

But according to Rule 60 in the House of Representatives, a bill that has been in committee for at least 18 days can be placed on the legislature’s calendar with approval of 51 representatives.

Monday marked the 18th day after the House version of the bill was filed with the State Government committee.

Gay-marriage advocates anticipate a move sometime this week to push the bill to the House floor.

Justin Uebelhor, the communications director for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group One Iowa, said he worries the move would take attention from more important topics.

“The message that our supporters have been talking about when talking to their legislators is that they want them to focus on those issues of common concern, such as the economy and bringing jobs back to Iowa,” he said.

Even if the bill is voted on and passed in the House, he said, it would likely face even bigger procedural hurdles in the Senate.

But gay-marriage opponents say Iowans deserve a vote on the issue.

“People are extremely upset. They believe government is too big, too out of touch,” said Sen. Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, one of the sponsors of the senate’s version of the bill. “The Supreme Court decision and the way Democrats have handled it is emblematic of government being out of control.”

However, the issue has caused tension in the Republican Party.

Some party leaders, including former Gov. Terry Branstad, have largely avoided the topic. But others, such as gubernatorial hopeful Bob Vander Plaats, have insisted that government leaders do anything they can to halt same-sex unions.

Especially among younger voters, gay marriage seems to be a nonissue. In fact, while only a quarter of Iowans support gay marriage, almost 60 percent of Iowans under age 30 support gay marriage, according to UI Hawkeye Poll results released in April 2009.

“Definitely, economic issues play a bigger part than social issues for me,” UI student Brian Underwood told The Daily Iowan last month. He is a member of UI Students for Branstad.

Eastern Iowans continue to lend support to same-sex marriage. All of the Iowa City area’s state lawmakers have said they support last year’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage.

“Iowa City is the third most gay-friendly city in the nation,” said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, the chairwoman of the State Government committee. “Those are my constituents. I want that diversity; I think it adds to the quality of life here.”


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