An Iowa house committee has approved a proposed amendment to the Iowa constitution banning same-sex marriage. Critics said state law already bans same-sex marriage and saw the proposed constitutional amendment as political grandstanding. Supporters said they are worried about "activist judges" who could potentially strike down the law.
"If you follow the news at all, it's not unusual for courts to rule those laws unconstitutional," Republican representative Danny Carroll, the main supporter of the measure, said Thursday. "The institution of marriage is serious."
The house judiciary committee approved the proposed amendment 13-6, clearing the way for debate in the full house. Republican leaders said they have the votes to approve the measure in the house, but its future in the current legislature is cloudy. The senate is tied at 25-25, and a similar proposed amendment was rejected last year when Republicans held firm control of the chamber. Republicans tend to favor the ban on gay marriage in greater numbers than Democrats.
Democratic representative Vicki Lensing said she was worried the proposed constitutional amendment would overturn decisions by some local governments to recognize domestic-partnership arrangements on matters such as health care. "I don't want to undermine that," Lensing said. The outcome of the debate won't be clear for years, regardless of the outcome of this year's debate.
A proposed constitutional amendment would have to be approved during the current two-year general assembly, and an identical measure would have to be approved by the legislature elected next year. If the proposal wins that approval, it would then go on the ballot during the general election of 2008, timing that has heavy political overtones because that's a presidential election year.
In last year's election, proposed bans on gay marriage were on the ballots in some hotly contested swing states such as Ohio. Their presence on the ballot was credited with driving up voter turnout among religious conservatives, and Ohio was credited with swinging the election to President Bush. Carroll rejected suggestions that the amendment was being pushed for political gain, arguing it's needed to underscore the state's commitment to traditional marriage. "This will give people a voice in declaring traditional marriages," Republican representative Dwayne Alons said.
Republican representative Joe Hutter found a biblical analogy for his support for the amendment. "If there had been two Adams or two Eves, none of us would be sitting here today," Hutter said. House speaker Chris Rants vowed to push the measure through the house. "It doesn't have to be divisive," Rants said. "Iowa's law is going to be challenged. The only protection you have is a constitutional amendment."