The Iowa Catholic Conference is urging the state’s Catholics to consider voting this November to convene a constitutional convention, as a means of eventually banning gay marriage here.

Every 10 years the General Election ballot allows Iowans to vote to set up a convention to consider changes in the state constitution. Iowa Catholic Conference spokesman Tom Chapman says it can be a way to advance a constitutional amendment which would declare “traditional” unions between a man and a woman as the only legally recognized marriages in Iowa.

“The main reason is we really haven’t been able to have a debate on the marriage issue at the legislature,” Chapman says. “I think the idea would be is that this issue would hit the floor at the legislature, Let’s have a vigorous debate about what’s the direction we should go on marriage and kind of go from there but, simply, that hasn’t happened, so we look at the constitutional convention as a way to have that discussion.”

Other opponents of gay marriage have considered the idea of a constitutional convention, but balked at calling for convening one because there’s no limit to what can be proposed.

“We have a board of about 25 people. The (Catholic) bishops of Iowa and then lay people and priests from across the state and we had a good discussion about it because there are some pros and cons,” Chapman says. “But our political is let’s move forward with a convention, have that debate, and then depend on the people of Iowa to vote on the good things and vote no on the bad things when it comes out.” 

The Iowa Catholic Conference is not getting involved in the retention election involving three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who joined in the 2009 opinion which legalized gay marriage. “We’re very careful not to advocate for, support any or oppose any candidates or political parties and so we don’t want to get involved in that.”

The state’s four Catholic bishops are sending out a flier on “Faithful Citizenship” that includes the call for a constitutional convention, along with a request that Catholics consider other key issues, like “taking a stand on the side of the poor” and being advocates for federal immigration reform.

“What they’re asking pastors to do is put it in the parish bulletin, so…a couple of hundred thousand (Iowans) will end up seeing the flier,” Chapman says. “And really the purpose is something we’ve done every two years, is to try to get people to inform their conscience and go act on it and go get active in the political process.”

The flier tells Iowa Catholics that a “basic test” for policy is “whether it supports or threatens human life and human dignity.”  The Catholic bishops advise that citizens and public officials must “seriously consider matters related to the common good.”  

“We’re always trying to stick up for the poor and the vulnerable in society, so if you look at the questions that we’re encouraging people to ask of their candidates, you know, I think it’s fair to say we’ve got one foot stuck in both of the major political parties,” Chapman says. “But I think the basic test is how does it affect human life.”

Read more about the “Faithful Citizenship” document from the Iowa Catholic Conference.