Senator Ernst. (file photo from Ernst’s office)

Local Republican committees in at least six Iowa counties have voted to censure U.S. Senator Joni Ernst for her vote to have the federal government recognize same-sex marriages.

The move means all states must recognize same-sex marriages from other states, but Ernst said it does not force states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Iowa has recognized same-sex marriage since 2009,” Ernst said this afternoon during a conference call with Iowa reporters. “The vast majority of Iowans, even a majority of Republicans, do support same-sex marriage.”

AUDIO of Ernst’s answer during conference call

County party officials who’ve criticized Ernst say her vote violates the Iowa GOP’s platform, which calls for the repeal of laws that recognize same-sex marriage.

“After hearing directly from Iowans and taking a close look at the amended language that was presented in the Senate, I believe that the bill does protect religious freedoms,” Ernst said, “and it simply maintains the status quo in Iowa.”

Ernst told reporters the bill codified exemptions for religious institutions that do not wish to recognize same-sex unions.

“This is incredibly important that I get these points out,” Ernst said. “The bill does not provide a federal right for same-sex marriage.”

According to Ernst, the bill also has “new and explicit protections” for non-profit religious organizations. Ernst was among a dozen Republican senators who supported the bill. And Ernst said she understands there are a number of efforts to censure her.

“I stand by my vote,” Ernst told reporters, “and I hope that more people will actually read the bill and understand that we have just improved upon religious liberty protections, not just in Iowa but across the United States.”

This summer, the Mahaska County GOP voted to censure Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks of LeClaire for her support of the initial bill on same-sex marriage. On December 1, the Des Moines County GOP voted to condemn both Miller-Meeks and Ernst. The Wright County GOP’s Central Committee is another group that’s voted to censure Ernst and its Facebook page is calling for a constitutional amendment defining legal marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

This summer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa said county parties do not have the authority to censure anyone. The conservative Iowa Standard website has several posts over the past couple of weeks about the criticism of Ernst and Miller-Meeks.

(This post was updated at 5:15 a.m.)

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