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Iowa house passes constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

Iowa house passes constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

A proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has passed the Iowa house 54-44, but it is not likely to make its way into the Iowa constitution. The senate, tied at 25-25, rejected a similar amendment last year when Republicans held a firm majority. A constitutional amendment must pass two general assemblies before it can be put before voters. If the proposal were to win approval this year and next, it would go on the ballot in 2008. Democratic representative Mary Mascher said those pushing the resolution knew it would not advance: "This is nothing more than a political debate. We all know that in this chamber. We know this resolution is dead on arrival in the senate." Republican representative Danny Carroll, floor manager of the bill, said the constitutional amendment is needed to ensure that marriage in Iowa will not be redefined by a judge. Current law defines marriage as a union between only a man and a woman. "There's one reason to support this constitutional amendment, and that is because of what is taking place in the courts in this country," he said. "Yes, we have it on our books, but you and I know in today's society it is easy to go looking for a court somewhere to overturn a law that you disagree with." Democratic representative Bruce Hunter said the proposed amendment would violate the personal liberty and human rights of gay and lesbian couples. "This is legislation by fear," he said. "I trust the judges that oversee our justice system. If a judge oversteps their bounds, we have the checks to bring that judge back into compliance." Democratic representative Vicki Lensing said a constitutional amendment would deny gay and lesbian couples the right to make decisions for a partner in a medical emergency, the right to take leave from work for a serious illness, and the right to jointly hold property and pass on assets after death. "I believe in equal rights," Lensing said. "This is an issue of personal freedom. It is about human dignity, and it is about fairness. I ask this chamber to practice tolerance today." According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states have constitutional amendments pending that would ban same-sex marriage. A resolution passed in Kansas, and voters will consider the issue April 5. Voters in South Dakota will go to the polls to vote on the issue next year after the legislature passed a similar resolution. States that amended their state constitutions in 2004 after voters approved such a measure were Utah, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio, North Dakota, Montana, Mississippi, Michigan, Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The amendments declare that marriage is valid only if it is between a man and a woman. Similar constitutional amendments in Idaho, Virginia, and Maryland died in the legislatures, the NCSL said. (AP)

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