Wednesday, February 10, 2010

House, Senate reject same-sex marriage resolution | | The Des Moines Register

House, Senate reject same-sex marriage resolution | | The Des Moines Register

Both the Iowa House and Senate on Tuesday rejected Republican-led efforts to move forward on a resolution to repeal same-sex marriage.

The actions were procedural and not direct votes on the issue of marriage. They centered on identical joint resolutions in each chamber seeking to amend the Iowa Constitution to specify the state will recognize only marriage between one man and one woman.

Republicans sought to pull the resolutions out of committees so that they would be placed on the debate calendar and avoid a legislative deadline this week.

No vote was taken on Senate Joint Resolution 2001. However, all 18 Senate Republicans signed a petition circulated by Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, as well as one Democratic senator, Tom Hancock, D-Epworth. They needed 26.

"I live in a highly Catholic area, and I think that's what the folks wanted me to do," Hancock said.

The House spent almost 30 minutes on a rarely used "call of the House," in which all of the 100 members were ordered into the chambers to vote unless they were previously excused. The effort to advance House Joint Resolution 6 out of the committee process ultimately failed in a 45-54 vote, mostly along party lines.

Rep. Dolores Mertz of Ottosen was the only House Democrat to vote in favor of pushing the resolution out of committee. Rep. Mark Kuhn, D-Charles City, was previously excused to attend a public meeting in his district. He returned to the Capitol later in the day and notified House staff that he would have voted against the effort if he had been present.

An Iowa Poll taken earlier this month showed that 62 percent of Iowans think the issue of gay marriage doesn't deserve lawmakers' time, rating below texting while driving, puppy mill legislation, gun control, payday loans and gambling.

House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, said Republicans "can go ahead and use" the House vote in this fall's elections. "I would advise Republicans that 'it's the economy, stupid,' " Murphy said.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in April 2009 that fairness and constitutional equal protection require that same-sex couples be allowed to marry. Some Iowans now want to amend the Iowa Constitution to specify that marriage is between one man and one woman.

If approved by the House and the Senate, House Joint Resolution 6 would also need to be approved by the Legislature in 2011 or 2012 before it could be put before citizens for a vote.

It's unlikely that the resolution will meet this week's legislative deadline for passage out of committee, Republicans and Democrats said.

"Iowans just want the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage, and this is part of the process of getting there," said House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, who added that the issue was probably dead this year.

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, acknowledged that the failed effort leaves Iowans with only one opportunity anytime soon to change the law: a vote in November to call for a constitutional convention.

Some conservatives have criticized such a convention, however, fearing it could open up changes on a wide range of other issues, such as expanding abortion or labor laws.

"Iowans have made it clear that they want a vote on the basic definition of marriage," McKinley said, "and Senate Republicans have again tried to allow all Iowans a vote on the Iowa marriage amendment. Once again, Republicans are standing up to allow Iowans a vote, while Democrats continue to obstruct and turn their backs on the voters."

The Iowa Family Policy Center, which has led efforts against same-sex marriage, issued a statement critical of Tuesday's legislative actions.

"If Speaker Murphy intends to allow courts to make law in Iowa, he ought to stop stealing his paycheck from the taxpayers and go look for other work," said Bryan English, a spokesman for the group.

Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa, expressed satisfaction with Tuesday's actions. One Iowa is the state's largest gay rights organization.

"It's time to move on from the destructive politics of division and focus on what matters to a great majority of Iowans," Jenison said.

Register staff writer Jennifer Jacobs contributed to this article.

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