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Even with Democrat help, slim chance of Senate vote on gay marriage
At least one Iowa Senate Democrat who sided with Republicans during the last legislative session in an attempt to force a vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage said he will do so again. Another wouldn’t rule it out. But even with Democrats likely facing a slim 26-24 majority next session, it’s unlikely the GOP could bring a marriage bill to the floor for a vote.
Senate Republicans last attempted to bring the marriage amendment out of committee in February with a petition signed by all 18 members of their party and five Democrats – three senators shy of the required 26. Three of those Democrats – Dennis Black of Newton, Tom Hancock of Epworth and Joseph Seng of Davenport – remain in office. A fourth, Keith Kreiman of Bloomfield, appears to be headed toward a recount defeat.
But even if at least two of the Democrats were to join Republicans in signing a new petition that still wouldn’t stop Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) from blocking a bill coming to the floor. Gronstal has repeatedly said he will never allow a marriage amendment to come up for a vote.
Hancock said he would probably still sign another petition and would vote in favor of an amendment banning same-sex marriage. Black wouldn’t say whether he supported same-sex marriage, saying he would have to see the language of a new petition or bill before deciding whether to support either.
Black said he supported the petition in February in the interest of giving Iowa citizens more of a voice on the issue and predicted that a constitutional amendment bill would “pass virtually immediately” in the House next session but would die in the Senate’s judiciary committee.
Both Black and Hancock expressed sympathy for the three state Supreme Court justices ousted over the issue in the recent retention election, saying they were just doing their job.
Seng did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In order for a constitutional amendment to become law, a bill would first have to pass in the state House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions. Then it would be placed on the ballot for a final decision by Iowa voters.
The earliest the amendment could go on the ballot is 2013.
But Black, who said he knows Gronstal “very well,” said the majority leader would “not be swayed.”
That apparently won’t stop Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) from trying.
“We’ve tried and we will continue to try but I think his own members will continue to persuade him,” McKinley told The Iowa Independent.
Tom Jochum, a former state representative from Dubuque and current lobbyist for the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, said the only possible alternative for Republicans would be to break from Senate tradition and vote to suspend the rules to override Gronstal. But Secretary of the Senate Mike Marshall told The Des Moines Register after the election that a rules suspension wouldn’t happen.
“There’s no mechanism whereby senators, even a majority of senators, can override the majority leader,” he told The Register.
The Register also reported that McKinley said his party would not pursue a rule suspension strategy. However, McKinley now says he never told The Register that and said “everything is on the table.”