October 25, 2014

Republican leader predicts remaining justices will lose their jobs

The recently re-elected Republican leader in the state senate predicts the four remaining justices on the Iowa Supreme Court eventually will lose their jobs, too, if legislators don’t start the process of giving Iowans a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

In 2009, the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling which paved the way for gay marriage in Iowa. Three of the justices were voted off the court in last week’s retention election. Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley says the future of the other four justices depends on lawmakers putting that constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot.

“That is an issue that the people overwhelmingly said, ‘We want to have a say in this. It should not be overreaching government or judges,'” McKinley says. “I believe the (justices) would still be in office had Mike Gronstal allowed that vote over the past two years. It would not even have been an issue.” Gronstal is the Democratic leader in the state senate, and he has used his authority to block a vote on a proposal which would set the wheels in motion for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Iowa.

McKinley says the justices should blame Democrats like Gronstal for their loss. “You can lay that squarely at the feet of the Democrats,” McKinley says. “And I don’t know if they want to be responsible for a redo of this in two years on a (judicial) retention vote or not, but I would think that many of their members who have professed that they think people should have a vote will be given the opportunity to do the right thing.”

Gronstal has said he’ll continue to block a vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and the final election returns give Democrats a 26-to-24 edge over Republicans in the state senate. In the Iowa House, Republicans will hold a 60-to-40 seat majority starting in January and House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen intends to have the House endorse a statewide vote on a marriage amendment.

“I expect us to handle that resolution sooner rather than later,” Paulsen said earlier this week. “What exactly that means is something we’ll have to talk about.” The process of placing a proposed constitutional amendment before voters in Iowa is lengthy.

A resolution must be passed by both the Iowa House and Senate in 2011 or 2012 and then again in 2013 or 2014 before an amendment could be placed on the General Election ballot.