Gay rights advocates have added another wrinkle in the battle for political control of the Iowa Legislature. On Tuesday, a gay rights group filed a lawsuit asking Iowa courts to give six gay Iowa couples the right to a legal marriage in Iowa. An hour later, Republicans were threatening to make gay marriage a major issue in the 2006 legislative session which starts in January, pressuring Democrats in the Iowa Senate to take a stand on the issue.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the Iowa House last year voted overwhelmingly to enact a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in Iowa. “I don’t know if it’s a campaign issue, but the reality is we told people at the time when we were debating the constitutional amendment a year ago that we anticipated there were going to be challenges to the law,” Rants says. “I hate to say ‘I told you so’ but I told you so.”
Iowa has a law that declares that the only legally-recognized marriages in Iowa are those between a man and a woman. Rants says Democrats in the State Senate will now have to decide whether they’ll block a vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in Iowa. Rants says gays and lesbians in Iowa were applying for marriage licenses not just in California and Massachusetts but in Iowa, and that was a clue that the lawsuit was coming.
The gay rights group “Lambda Legal” is pursuing similar lawsuits in New York, New Jersey, California and Washington state — so-called “blue states” that are considered more liberal because a majority of voters in those states voted for Democrat John Kerry in the last election.
Iowa, by comparison, is a “red state” that voted for Republican George Bush in 2004. Camilla Taylor, a lawyer for “Lambda Legal,” yesterday (Tuesday) was asked why her gay rights group decided to wage their legal battle in Iowa. Taylor said gay people in Iowa need the protections of marriage. “Iowans shouldn’t have to be last,” she said.