A Democrat from southern Iowa joined with the 12 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee to advance a proposed constitutional amendment which would ban same-sex marriage in Iowa.
“I agree with those that think that it’s time for the public debate on this issue to begin in earnest,” Representative Kurt Swaim, a Democrat from Bloomfield said during committee debate of the proposal.
The process of amending Iowa’s constitution is long and complicated, however, and the Democratic leader in the Iowa Senate has repeatedly vowed to block the proposal. Representative Vicki Lensing of Iowa City is among the eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who voted against the proposed amendment.
“Denying two people who love one another the right to marry to me is a violation of human dignity,” Lensing said during the committee meeting. “It runs contrary to what I think we, as Iowans, are all about.”
Representative Dwayne Alons (uh-LAHNZ), a Republican from Hull, said the “remedy” for the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa is a constitutional amendment which says the only legal union that’s “valid” in Iowa is a marriage between one man and one woman.
“A simple statement about marriage I think the pepole can understand and they can make up their minds about what they want to have in the constitution,” Alons said.
The proposed amendment would outlaw not only same-sex marriages but civil unions and domestic partnerships. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said that will create legal problems for gay and lesbian couples in long-term relationships.
“I see no difference between their commitment and love and that of mine for my husband or him for me,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.
Wessel-Kroeschell attended her first same-sex wedding this past summer. “Writing discrimination into the constitution is unjust,” she said. “It singles out a group of people and categorizes them as less than others, undeserving of legal and economic protections and as second-class citizens.”
Swaim, the only Democrat on the committee to vote to advance the constitutional amendment, said a few minutes later that he trusts voters.
“The Iowa people, ultimately, are the arbiters of their own constitution. The issue before the Iowa people must no longer be, ‘Should I get to vote?’ The issue must now be, ‘How should I vote?'” Swaim said. “Let the debate begin. Let it be civil and respectful.”
Passions on the issue flared earlier today during a subcommittee meeting on the proposal. Over 200 people crammed into the meeting room, applauding and cheering loudly at various points in the testimony.