February 7, 2016

House advances constitutional amendment on gay marriage by 62-37 vote

Three Democrats joined with 59 Republicans in the Iowa House this afternoon to pass a resolution on gay marriage. The proposed constitutional amendment would ban same-sex marriages, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, said Iowa should join the states which have passed similar restrictions.

“We are not stepping off a cliff into a deep, dark hole and doing something that’s totally unusual or odd or strange compared to a number of other states that have done this exact same thing where the people of their states have amendment their constitution,” Alons said at the conclusion of today’s debate. “In fact, to the number of 30 have done that already.”

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said only two other states have passed amendment as restrictive as the one proposed.

“In a representative democracy we must not only vote the will of our constituents, but we must also do our homework — and sometimes we need to ignore the polls and do the right thing,” she said. “This is one of those cases. We need to be on the right side of history.”

Representative Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, said since the legislature and the Supreme Court disagree on the proper definition of marriage, Iowa voters should decide the matter.

“This is not a debate about taking a right away from anyone,” Forristall said. “This is a debate about whether a right exists.”

Two black legislators, both Democrats, spoke against the proposed constitutional amendment.  Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines, spoke near the beginning of the nearly three-hour-long debate.

“The issue is: do we have the right to discriminate against anybody? That’s what we’re really voting on here,” Abdul-Samad said. “We’re voting on people’s rights. What right do we have to be in people’s bedrooms?”

Representative Phyllis Thede, a Democrat from Bettendorf, spoke next to last.

“And whether you mean to or not, this decision will spur hatred and that hurts,” Thede said. “I have been a victim of hatred and, let me tell you, it bothers me.”

Representative Richard Anderson, a Republican from Clarinda, said if the line isn’t drawn at traditional marriage, then what happens when brothers and sisters or polygamists ask to marry?

“It’s the people who determine the constitution…and giving them the right to vote on this issue demonstrates devotion to democracy, not bias, not prejudice and not discrimination,” he said. “It puts in the hands of the everyday people the power, the authority to determine what the definition of marriage ought to be.”

House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines spoke briefly during debate.

“This vote today may be politically costly for some members.  It might be politically-advantageous for others — don’t know,” McCarthy said.  “But what I’m fairly convinced of is that we will look back on this vote…many, many years from today and we will regret it.” 

Representative Alons, the proposal’s lead sponsor, urged Iowans to pressure the Democratic leader in the state senate who has vowed to block the proposal from advancing.

“The people of the state will have the opportunity to have their voice be heard again and again and again,” Alons said. 

After the House vote, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs indicated he won’t change his mind.

“This isn’t about me.  This is about a great couple I know in Council Bluffs.  They have a beautiful, curly-headed little boy — just the cutest kid you would ever see and it’s about their family and their rights,” Gronstal told reporters. “And these people want to take away their rights.” 

Three House Democrats — Dan Muhlbauer of Manilla; Brian Quirk of New Hampton and Kurt Swaim of Bloomfield — joined with 59 House Republicans to pass the resolution calling for the constitutional amendment on gay marriage.  One House Republican — Representative Betty De Boef — was ill and not present for Tuesday’s vote.  Thirty-seven Democrats in the House voted against the proposed constitutional amendment.

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