Legislative leaders from both political parties say the Iowa legislature will adjourn in the next week or so without taking any action in response to tomorrow’s gay marriage ruling.
On Friday morning the Iowa Supreme Court will issue its ruling on a case involving six gay couples who charge the state law prohibiting gay marriage is unconstitutional. House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha suggests the legislature has bigger issues on its "to do" list.
"Look, this legislature has two jobs: pass a balanced budget and put Iowans back to work and we haven’t done either one of them," Paulsen says.
Under current Iowa law, the only marriages legally recognized in the state are those between a man and a woman. If the court rules that law is unconstitutional, Paulsen is "o.k." with legislators starting the process of amending the state constitution in order to prohibit gay marriage, but Paulsen ranks it as a "partisan…side" issue.
"We have two jobs in this legislature this year: help put Iowans back to work and pass a balanced budget," Paulsen says. "To the extent we can get something else done on the side, I’m fine with that."
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton predicts a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Iowa would be endorsed by legislators, if it came up for a vote.
"I believe Iowans believe in traditional marriage. I believe traditional marriage is between a man and a woman. I do not know what the supreme court will come up with," McKinley says. "I do believe that if Mike Gronstal would allow a bill to come forward, we’d see at least 26 votes to pass it."
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs read a prepared statement to reporters during a Thursday morning statehouse news conference.
"Tomorrow’s civil rights ruling’s the final step in a lengthy legal process and we have said from the start we’re going to wait and see that decision and review it before we take any action," Gronstal said from his prepared remarks, then he added: "so I’m not going to make any comments or speculation today on that. We’re going to wait and see what the decision is tomorrow morning."
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines is an attorney.
"We’re going to encourage everybody to take a deep breath and analyze the decision. The first thing we’re going to do is read the legal decision to see what it says and after that, we’ll make an intelligent determination on where we go from there," McCarthy told reporters. "But we will not be engaging in any hypotheticals today on what the decision could, possibly, dictate."
Leaders hope to conclude the 2009 legislative session by Friday, April 10. The process of amending the state’s constitution is long. If the 2010 legislature endorses an amendment, 2012 is the earliest it could be placed before Iowa voters.
Click on the audio link below to listen to the weekly news conference featuring Democratic leaders Gronstal, McCarthy and House Speaker Pat Murphy, followed by the news conference featuring Republican leaders Paulsen and McKinley.