While two top Democrats in the Iowa legislature issued a statement last Friday applauding the Iowa Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriages in the state, another Democratic leader in the state senate says he supports an amendment to the state constitution which would ban gay marriage in Iowa.
Senator Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, is the president of the Iowa Senate. "All I’ll say is that if I get a chance to vote for an amendment, I will," Kibbie says. "…For me to cast my ‘yes’ vote, we need to get a document in front of us."
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal said Friday that as long as he’s the floor leader in the senate, that vote will not be scheduled and Gronstal repeated that vow on Monday evening.
"I see a bunch of people that merely want to profess their love for each other and want state law to recognize that. Is that so wrong?" Gronstal asked, rhetorically, during remarks on the Senate floor. "I don’t think that’s so wrong."
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton criticized Gronstal immediately afterwards. "As senators, we are elected by the people to be representatives of the people. We should not be afraid to debate and vote on difficult issues. That’s why we were elected in the first place," McKinley said. "Instead, your response is pure obstruction."
But could there be a action yet this year in the House on the issue? The 56 Democrats in the Iowa House met privately for a few hours Monday, discussing the issue and House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines suggests it’s an open question at this point.
"I don’t believe it’s my job to be parochial in these matters and so I want the decision that the House Democrats arrive at to be reflective of the House Democrats’ collective opinion," McCarthy says. "And that’s what we’re working through."
McCarthy, who is a lawyer, says it’s complicated and he and other Democratic legislators may need more time to develop a response to Friday’s ruling on gay marriage. "These are difficult issues that involve matters of faith, people’s deeply held religious views, so you’ve really got to let people be heard on these issues, I think," McCarthy says.
Republicans in the House vow to use rare parliamentary move to force a vote on the matter. Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, says the objective is to pass a resolution so a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage could be placed before voters in 2012. "People are concerned and upset and feel that something should be done, other than some judges making a decision," Alons says.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, on Friday issued a joint statement with Senate Leader Gronstal, congratulating "thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws." Neither McCarthy nor Kibbie signed onto that statement.
Secretary of State Michael Mauro on Monday suggested voters may have another option in November of 2010. Read more about it.