Iowa House Votes For Marriage Ban

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com February 01 2011 9:35 AM ET

The full Iowa house voted Tuesday afternoon to approve a resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, which would effectively repeal the 2009 state supreme court decision that legalized marriage for same-sex couples.

Early Tuesday afternoon, following almost three hours of debate, the Republican-controlled chamber approved House Joint Resolution 6 by a vote of 62-37. The outcome was expected following action last week in the house judiciary committee, which passed the resolution by a vote of 13-8.

“The proposed amendment devalues families and divides Iowans,” said One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison in a news release. “The Constitution is meant to protect the freedoms and liberties of all Iowans. It is inappropriate to use the political process to single out and deny a group of Iowans of their constitutional protections. ”

Further efforts to repeal marriage equality appear stalled for now, however, as senate majority leader Michael Gronstal has vowed to block debate of the measure in his Democratic-controlled chamber. A resolution needs to pass two consecutive sessions of the legislature in order to make the ballot.

“The vote today by House Republicans was a big step backwards for the constitutional rights of all Iowans," said Sen. Gronstal in a statement provided to The Advocate. "I remain committed to protecting the rights of all Iowans and focusing our energy on helping Iowans recover from the national recession.”

Rep. Mary Masher, a Democrat from Iowa City who opposed the resolution, alluded to the senate roadblock during her impassioned remarks on the floor against the prospect of a constitutional amendment.

"Your whole comment about just let the people vote? You’re right," she said. "We’ve got a process for that. That’s why we’ve got two chambers. And if one chamber says 'no,' it doesn’t happen, that’s part of the process."

During the debate, Masher called out two Republican representatives, Dwayne Alons and Kraig Paulsen, for their support for the amendment. She pressed Alons on religious freedom and Paulsen on his understanding of the unanimous state supreme court decision that ruled for marriage equality on the basis of equal protection.

“Which minority rights in our constitution do you and don’t you want to protect?” she asked. “Are you picking and choosing? I want to know!”

Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines, compared the struggle for marriage equality to the fight for civil rights among African Americans in expressing his opposition to the resolution. The Iowa supreme court ruled against school segregation in 1868, almost a century before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re voting on people’s rights,” he said. “What right do we have to be in people’s bedrooms? But we do have the right to make sure everyone has rights.”

Rep. Richard Anderson, a Republican from Clarinda and ranking member of the judiciary committee, disagreed with the comparison between the gay rights and civil rights movements in remarks that also compared marriage equality to incest and polygamy. He told Ako that some African Americans, as well as the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court, have “a different sense of your history as it relates to the homosexual history.”

Anderson attempted to support his argument by saying that gay rights questions have received lower-level scrutiny in the courts compared to questions of racism, which have received strict scrutiny. He suggested it was in the interest of the state to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

Calling the debate over marriage equality “as important or more important than jobs,” he said, “It isn’t about love. It isn’t about romance. It’s about driving state policy towards responsible procreation.”

On Monday, hundreds packed a public hearing in the house judiciary committee about the resolution, which proposes a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality and other forms of same-sex relationship recognition including civil unions and domestic partnerships.

“More than 70 people signed up to testify at the hearing and several hundred more jammed the House gallery to watch,” reported the Associated Press.