A man who has led the opposition to same-sex marriage in Iowa sees “good news” in today’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Bob Vander Plaats says the court ruled the federal government must recognize same-sex unions if states sanction them, but the justices did not curtail the rights of states to ban gay marriage if they choose.
“The initial reaction was probably fairly good news, meaning the court is saying that the states have the right to define what marriage is and the Iowa people have yet to decide,” Vander Plaats says.
Residents in 38 states have voted to ban same-sex marriage. However, same-sex couples have been marrying in Iowa since a 2009 state Supreme Court opinion that Vander Plaats has criticized. Vander Plaats points to the decision written by the U.S. Supreme Court’s chief justice.
“Roberts, in writing the opinion, said: ‘We are judges. We are not policymakers,’ and what our argument was with the Iowa court is that they went into policymaking,” Vander Plaats says. “We believe this validates what we’ve said. I believe for the people of Iowa this is why they need to elect office-holders and to get engaged in the marriage debate and let’s have a vote on this thing.”
Vander Plaats — president of The Family Leader — predicts same-sex marriage will be a hot button issue in the 2014 elections for the state legislature, as it’s legislators — not the governor — who decide whether Iowa voters get to consider an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.
“The state senate needs to get into conservative hands to where we can advance the opportunity for the people of Iowa to actually vote (on) what is the definition of marriage,” Vander Plaats says. “And we believe the people of Iowa are going to determine just like we believe that marriage is common sense. It’s a man and a woman. Kids deserve to be raised by a mom and a dad. It has served society extremely well and it will only benefit society in the future.”
According to the process for amending the Iowa Constitution, a resolution has to pass both the Iowa House and Senate in 2014 and the same resolution has to clear the House and Senate in 2015 or 2016 for the issue to be put on the 2016 ballot. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal controls the debate agenda in the state senate because Democrats hold more seats in the senate and Gronstal has refused to bring the matter up for a vote, saying he will not allow discrimination to be written into the Iowa constitution.
Vander Plaats says his group — The Family Leader — will focus their 2014 efforts on congressional races, too.
“We’re going to be very involved in the U.S. Senate race ’cause I think, congressionally, they play a role now, too. They still control the purse,” Vander Plaats says. “Again, a Supreme Court — just like (U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John) Roberts said — they don’t get to make policy on these issues. They don’t get to fund these issues, so I think congressionally there’s a big issue, so we’re going to play very heavy in the U.S. Senate race.”
Democrat Tom Harkin announced in January that he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate in 2014. Congressman Bruce Braley is the only Democrat who has announced a campaign for the U.S. Senate. Four Republicans have announced they’re running for the U.S. Senate, with others in the GOP still considering jumping in the race.
Read about today’s reaction to the Supreme Court rulings from same-sex couples in Iowa here.