The Iowa Senate had an early and spirited debate about its operations as a freshman senator tried to override the traditions of the senate and force a vote on gay marriage. Senator Kent Sorenson, a Republican from Indianola, is the lead sponsor of a resolution which would set up a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
“I didn’t come over here to try and disrupt the process. I didn’t come over here to throw out the tradition out the window,” Sorenson said. “But I did make a promise to the people in my district and to the people who supported my campaign that I would try to force a vote on marriage.”
Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, says the traditions of the senate needed to be abandoned in this case. “Extraordinary times deserve extraordinary measures,” Bartz said. Sorenson used a parliamentary rule that’s not been used in the senate for at least 40 years, trying to override the senate president’s decision on what would be debated.
Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, made this announcement shortly after seven o’clock this morning (Thursday). “You know, I’ve been around here about a long as anybody and this is the first time that we’ve had to call a vote on the ruling of the chair,” Kibbie announced shortly after seven this morning. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Sorenson’s move failed on a party-line vote, with all 26 Democrats opposing Sorenson. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs has repeatedly vowed to block a vote on the constitutional amendment and he argued this morning that the decades-old informal traditions about the power of the senate’s presiding officer should be upheld.
“I even understand that people may characterize this as a vote on the constitutional amendment,” Gronstal said. “It is not a vote on the constitutional amendment, but I understand that people can lie and say it is.”
The FAMiLY Leader sent an email last night, saying legislators “welcome” the public’s “confusion” about the intricacies of senate operations so senators have “cover” when voters ask them how they’ve voted on gay marriage.