DES MOINES — Fifty-seven Republican legislators — 56 in the House and one senator — are proposing a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Although the language is not identical, the two resolutions call for amending the Iowa Constitution to give voters the opportunity to essentially reverse the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rich Anderson, R-Clarinda, said he expects the bill to win committee approval next week and proceed to the House floor as soon as it is eligible.
“I don't think we'll dawdle,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said, noting Republicans consistently have said they would approve a resolution to put the issue on the ballot.
Similar language was offered last year and touched off large demonstrations by gay rights groups and social conservatives. Groups on both sides of the issue have been anticipating introduction of resolutions to prohibit same-sex marriage.
In fact, even before the House resolution was filed, One Iowa, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender advocacy organization, warned amending the constitution to “exclude gay couples will harm thousands of Iowa families.”
“Marriage says 'we're a family' like nothing else and is an important way we care for those we love,” One Iowa executive director Carolyn Jenison said. “Writing discrimination into the constitution will only divide us at a time when we need to work together to tackle common concerns.”
Instead, she said, Iowans want lawmakers to concentrate on creating jobs, providing educational opportunities and improving health care.
“Going backward on equal rights sends the wrong message,” she said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, sounded a similar warning that House Republicans appear to be getting bogged down on hot-button issues.
“We're dealing with all of these issues — abortion issues, gay marriage issues, stem cell research and preschool today, I consider that divisive, and the session is going to be over and we haven't attended to the business of the people,” he said.
However, House Republicans believe that Iowans want them to put the measure on the ballot. Despite warnings from then-majority Democrats last year that if Republicans spent time on the issue voters would punish them, Republicans took the issue to the campaign trail.
Voters flipped the House from a 56-44 Democratic majority to a 60-40 GOP majority.
In the House, all Republicans but Reps. Peter Cownie of West Des Moines, Scott Raecker of Urbandale, Steve Lukan of New Vienna and Dave Tjepkes of Gowrie are co-sponsors. However, Anderson expects all 60 Republicans will support resolution on the floor.
Although some Democrats have signed on to similar resolutions in the past, McCarthy said he expects a majority, “perhaps a large majority,” of the Democratic caucus to oppose the resolution.
In the Senate, Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, was the sole sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 3.
There, the measure's fate appears to be as certain in the Senate as in the House.
“As I've said before, I'm not inclined to put discrimination into the constitution of the state of Iowa,” said Senate majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, who has promised not to bring the resolution to the floor.
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