The first televised debate featuring the three Republican candidates for governor gave the trio a new forum to restate their views on the Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in Iowa. Each would like to see the ruling reversed.

Bob Vander Plaats, a business consultant from Sioux City, promises to issue an executive order preventing gay marriages in Iowa until there’s a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. “The governor has a role and a responsibility to step in and say, ‘Time out. You stepped outside your jurisdiction. We’re going to make sure the proper process is followed,'” Vander Plaats said in yesterday’s debate.  “This is a freedom issue every bit as much as it is a marriage issue.”

Former Governor Terry Branstad touted his role as the governor who signed the now-defunct “Defense of Marriage Act” which declared the only legal marriages in Iowa were to be between one man and one woman. “I wished it was as simple as what Bob Vander Plaats says. No state has restored one man/one woman marriage by an executive order.  That’s going to get you in court. You’re probably going to be held in contempt of court or at least overruled by the court. That doesn’t make sense.  We don’t want to discredit the governor. We want to get results,” Branstad said during yesterday’s debate. “The proven way to do it is to get the opportunity for the people of Iowa to vote.” 

State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll, a Christian minister, said when there is a disagreement “this strong,” you take the matter to a statewide vote. “I don’t agree with Bob’s decision to use the executive order.  I don’t think it’s constitutional.  I do think it will create conflict,” Roberts said during yesterday’s debate. “I think the governor should work hand-in-hand with the legislative branch of government to deal with the judicial branch in terms of where we could find areas we could, perhaps, limit the appellate authority of the court.”

The debate format gave Vander Plaats a chance to offer a rebuttal to his two competitors. “I have constitutional attorneys and historians saying, ‘You’re backed by the constitution,'” Vander Plaats said. “As a leader you need to lead and part of that leadership is defending that constitution and I think that’s what the people of Iowa deserve and expect, otherwise every one of your freedoms is up for grabs.”

Vander Plaats also shot back at Branstad, specifically, pointing out two of the justices on the state supreme court that issued the gay marriage ruling were appointed to the court by Branstad.  Vander Plaats opened the debate with something akin to a pledge to serve only two terms as governor. “And I won’t need to come back three, four or even five terms to get the job done,” Vander Plaats said.

Branstad served four terms as governor, leaving office in January of 1999, and he is now seeking a fifth term.  Branstad suggested Iowans want the kind of “results” he compiled as governor rather than the “rhetoric” Vander Plaats is offering voters.  “Leadership is more about results than rhetoric,” Branstad said. “…I know how to work with both parties.  I prefer to have Republicans in control because I think we can accomplish more.”

Roberts suggested the infighting among Republicans wasn’t selling with swing voters. “When you’re friendly, civil and respectful of other people, you can be a principled conservative and you can lead along principled, conservative lines and you can still attract a lot of Democrats and Independents as well,” Roberts said.

Yesterday’s debate was hosted by KTIV in Sioux City.