A bill that would extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians is stalled in the Iowa House of Representatives. Fifty-one "yes" votes are needed in the House for a bill to pass, but House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says he doesn’t have 51 Democrats willing to vote for the legislation, and Republicans who support it aren’t willing to vote for it unless Democrats put up those 51 "yes" votes first.
"So it’s the same kind of partisanship that we’ve seen on a whole host of bills," McCarthy says. The bill passed the Iowa Senate in March, but House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says there’s no point in even bringing the bill up for debate in the House. "There’s no question that we would like to debate it, but we don’t have 51 votes at this point," Murphy says.
Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, backs the gay rights legislation and he met privately with House Democrats Thursday afternoon to try to convince more of them to back it, too. "Nothing’s easy around this place. It takes a lot of hard work and heavy lifting to get important public policy measures all the way through the process and this is one I fully support and I expect we will have some success with but it sounds like it will take a little more work," Culver says.
The governor says it’s time to "open doors" by taking this "symbolic step" and barring discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace. "I felt the same way in terms of zero tolerance when it comes to discrimination in our schools and that’s why I signed the ‘Safe Schools’ initiatives and I think the next step is to protect the workplace," Culver says. Earlier this year, Culver signed a bill into law which requires all Iowa schools to have anti-bullying policies which forbid harassment of gay and lesbian students.