The Senate Ethics Committee today unanimously dismissed a complaint against a Senator who urged county recorders to not grant marriage licenses to same sex couples. The committee ruled the complaint against Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, was without merit.
Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton says Bartz was simply using his constitutional right to free speech. McKinleys says, "I think he exercised that responsibly. We may or may not agree with the side of issue he took but it was a freedom of speech issue as I look at it."
Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, says Bartz used his own website to circulate the petition urging the county recorders to not issue the licenses — so there was no violation of taxpayer trust.
Dearden says, "I may not agree with the issue but it was not in my opinion was not a violation of the ethics rule." The complaint was filed by former state representative Ed Fallon, a Democrat from Des Moines.
Bartz says he was surprised by the complaint and feels vindicated by the dismissal. "I’ve served 13 years in the Iowa Legislature- this was the first ethics complaint that was ever filed against me. And even though I stand very firm that I thought it had no merit, just the fact that it was filed creates kind of a shadow that you have to walk in for awhile," Bartz says.
Bartz says he was simply exercising his first amendment right to speak. Bartz says, "Freedom of speech is one of the ultimate freedoms that we have and I think the committee understood that, the fact that state legislators should be able to speak their mind on a variety of issues."
Fallon is a former candidate for governor and congress who now runs an activist group that supports gay rights as one of its issues.