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Gay marriage ban passed by committee, public hearing next week
A constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples cleared the Iowa House Judiciary Committee Monday, setting the stage for a public hearing next week.
Twelve Republicans and one Democrat — state Rep. Kurt Swaim of Bloomfield — voted in favor of House Joint Resolution 6. Eight Democrats voted against it.
“The Iowa people, ultimately, are the arbiters of their own constitution,” Swaim said. “The issue before the Iowa people must no longer be ‘Should I get to vote?’ The issue must now be, ‘How should I vote?’”
With a 60-40 Republican majority in the Iowa House, the amendment is widely expected to pass. 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.
The amendment aims to undo the unanimous 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the constitution.
Mark Kende, a law professor and director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told The Des Moines Register that the broad scope of the amendment could result in legal problems for the state down the road.
“Once you start taking away benefits from one group and not others based on their status, then that is something the Supreme Court is skeptical about. I think it would raise a profound federal constitutional issue,” he said.
California saw its voter approved ban on same-sex marriage struck down by a federal judge in August. The court ruled the ban violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. The case is currently in federal appeals court, but because California’s governor and attorney general refused to appeal the decision, the original ruling could be allowed to stand.