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Marriage amendment introduced in Iowa House
A constitutional amendment that would mandate that marriage between one man and one woman is the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state was introduced Wednesday in the Iowa House, marking the beginning of what promises to be one of the most contentious debates of the 2011 legislative session.
Fifty-six of the GOP’s 60-member majority signed on as co-sponsors to House Joint Resolution 6. Four Republican lawmakers — Peter Cownie, Steven Lukan, Scott Raecker and David Tjepkes — and all 40 Democrats refused to sign on as co-sponsors. The legislation goes beyond just banning same-sex marriage. It would also ban civil unions, domestic partnerships and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples.
The amendment would invalidate the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. A constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has been repeatedly introduce over the years, coming closest to being passed in 2004, when it cleared the Iowa House but fell one vote shy of passage in the Senate, with four Republicans joining all 21 Democrats to kill the measure that year. The next year, the Republican controlled Iowa House passed a gay marriage ban, but an evenly divided Senate never took up the bill.
Democrats were in control of both legislative chambers from 2006 until January, when Republicans captured a majority in the House and promised to once again push a gay-marriage ban quickly. However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has vowed to never allow such an amendment to come up for debate. Democrats still have a 26-24 majority in the Senate.
“Amending the Iowa Constitution to exclude gay couples will harm thousands of Iowa families,” said Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT-rights organization. “Marriage says ‘we’re a family’ like nothing else and is an important way we care for those we love. Writing discrimination into the Constitution will only divide us at a time when we need to work together to tackle common concerns. Iowans expect their elected officials to focus on issues that matter to everyone, like creating jobs, providing educational opportunities, and improving healthcare. Going backward on equal rights sends the wrong message.”
Cownie told The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth that he will vote in favor of the amendment, but didn’t sign on as co-sponsor at the request of some constituents in his district.