A former state legislator from Des Moines who now runs an activist group that supports gay marriage says he is filing an ethics complaint against a state senator who has urged county recorders to not issue licenses for gay marriage. Ed Fallon, a Democrat, says Republican Merlin Bartz of Grafton is wrong.
"I think it is very inappropriate for a state senator to use his office to basically ask Iowans to ignore the constitution, and to encourage county recorders to violate the law," Fallon says, "I mean the Supreme Court decision is very clear…it has said that gay and lesbian couples in Iowa will be able to marry. And for an elected official, a state senator, to go out and tell people to pressure the county recorder not to issue license, that to me seems like a violation of one’s oath of office."
Fallon is also a former candidate for governor who now heads a group called, "I’m for Iowa." He was asked if he believes Bartz is wrong for speaking out, or for putting a petition on the Senate Republican webpage. Fallon says that’s an issue that needs discussion.
Fallon says he’s not sure who pays for the website, and it may not be public money. But Fallon says the website also has listings of publicly financed positions. "Using that same website to promote an action that encourages people to violate the law, I have trouble with that," Fallon says.
Fallon says a public official should not tell people to violate the law. Fallon says Bartz’s action "encourages anarchy, it encourages lawlessness, and it encourages people to disregard the importance of legal decisions." Fallon says he doesn’t agree with every legal decisions or legislative decisions, but says if we value the system of checks and balances in government, then we have to respect the decisions. Fallon says he has no trouble with people protesting the gay marriage decision if it’s done in the right way.
Fallon says we have a strong history in this country of civil disobedience, citing Martin Luther King, David Thoreau, and the Boston Tea Party. "But there’s a difference between intentionally challenging a law you think is unjust, and encouraging somebody else to lose their job over it, especially when that person is an elected official themself," Fallon says.
Radio Iowa contacted Senator Bartz and he says he has not seen any complaint against him and could not comment. Bartz says he will be happy to comment on the complaint once it is filed and he has read it.
As a legislator, Fallon fought against the law that was passed in 1998 declaring that marriage is between a man and woman. The law was declared unconstitutional by the Iowa Supreme Court, opening the way for gay couples to apply for a marriage license beginning on April 27th.