Antigay activists Bob Vander Plaats and Brian Brown rallied their supporters at the Iowa state capitol Tuesday, calling for a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, something Democratic legislators are committed to blocking.
A constitutional amendment would nullify the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that brought marriage equality to the state. It would have to be passed by both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions before going to voters for ratification. The Iowa amendment passed in the state House of Representatives last year, but Senate majority leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat, has not let it come to a vote in that chamber.
At the capitol building in Des Moines, Vander Plaats, who heads the right-wing Iowa group Family Leader, and Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, demanded that legislators move the amendment forward to a citizen vote. Claiming a legacy from such figures as Martin Luther King and British antislavery activist William Wilberforce, they said Iowans are being denied a civil right by not being able to vote on marriage rights for same-sex couples, and Vander Plaats lampooned the term “marriage equality.”
“If we want marriage equality, let’s just stop for a second,” he said. “Why stop at same-sex marriage? Why not have polygamy? Why not have a dad marry his son or marry his daughter? If we’re going to have marriage equality, let’s open this puppy up and let’s have marriage equality. Otherwise, let’s stick to the way God designed it — one man and one woman, period.”
The antigay forces see some urgency to their fight in this election year, notes IowaPolitics.com. The Democrats have only a two-member advantage in the Senate, and opponents of marriage equality see a better chance for their cause if Republicans can gain control of that chamber. Also, Supreme Court justice David Wiggins, who joined in the unanimous decision for marriage equality, is up for a retention vote this year. In 2010 voters removed the three justices who were up for retention, after a campaign led by Vander Plaats denouncing the jurists for the marriage ruling.
Pro–marriage equality forces gathered Tuesday at the capitol as well, in a counterpoint to the antigay rally. There, Sen. Matt McCoy, the legislature’s only openly gay member, told reporters, “Bob Vander Plaats needs to get a real job instead of working on spreading a message of hate and discrimination.”
Watch video of both events below.