The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate is publicly criticizing the idea of giving county recorders the option of refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples "as a matter of conscience." Republican Senator Merlin Bartz of Grafton suggested the idea Tuesday during Senate debate, but it was dismissed with a parliamentary move.
This morning – three days later — Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs issued an audio statement condemning Bartz’s proposal.
"Here’s the crazy part of it: for example, what if a county (recorder) is morally opposed to mixed-race marriages? You know, it used to be illegal under Iowa law for mixed-race marriages," Gronstal said. "…Does Senator Bartz think they should be able to say, ‘No,’ to a mixed race couple?"
Gronstal suggested some county recorders may have, "as a matter of conscience," an objection to divorce, too.
"Some religions believe marriage should be one man, one woman, one time — and under the Bartz approach your county recorder would be able to say, ‘No, I’m a Catholic and you don’t get to have two marriages. You had your one.’ Under the Bartz approach if your county recorder didn’t think Catholics should marry Baptists, that would be the law in your county," Gronstal says. "That’s just so wrong."
Grosntal’s statement, recorded at the statehouse by his staff, lasted just over a minute and concluded with this.
"In Iowa, everyone is equal under the law. County recorders don’t get to decide for themselves which laws they’re going to follow and which they won’t," Gronstal said. "I hope Senator Bartz has learned that playing politics with this issue is a very bad way to go about making legislation."
Senator Bartz issued the following comment midday Friday: "I agree with Senator Gronstal, we should take the politics out of this issue and let the people of Iowa vote on a constitutional amendment that defines traditional marriage and I invite him to allow that vote on Monday."