Iowa House passes constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

Tuesday, February 01, 2011 at 3:30 pm | More from The Iowa Independent

A constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships passed the Iowa House Tuesday afternoon 62-37. Democratic Reps. Dan Muhlbauer, Brian Quirk and Kurt Swaim joined 59 Republicans in support of the measure. Thirty-seven Democrats voted “no,” and one Republican was absent.

The legislation, House Joint Resolution 6, was the subject of nearly three hours of debate with only two lawmakers speaking up in support. The rest, all Democrats, denounced the bill as nothing more than writing prejudice and discrimination into the constitution.

“Here’s the funny things about rights — they’re not supposed to be voted on,” said state Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines).

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) worried about how history will judge Iowa lawmakers who vote in support of revoking marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Many years from now we’ll look back on this debate and we’ll regret it,” he said.

After discussing his belief that marriage is about “responsible procreation,” state Rep. Rich Anderson (R-Clarinda) asked what could come next if the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage is allowed to stand. He concluded that it would lead to legalized polygamy and incest.

“If we remove the gender requirement for marriage, there is no rational basis to define the number,” he said. “So we open up the possibility of the constitutional recognition of polygamous relationships. That’s a slippery slope. And I don’t know where the logic is to draw the line. We wouldn’t recognize incestuous relationships between two consenting adult brothers and sisters. That raises up within us disgust, and we can’t accept that. We draw lines. We define marriage.”

Some of the most impassioned testimony came from state Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames), who argued that Iowa has long been ahead of the rest of the nation in recognizing the rights of minorities.

“Iowa is a special place. We have been ahead of the nation many times when it comes to civil rights. Here we are again; we are ahead of much of the nation. I am proud of the role we play to lead our nation in civil rights again,” she said.

“In the 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia not only ended the ban on interracial marriage but declared that marriage is one of the basic civil rights,” Wessel-Kroeschell continued. “In a representative democracy, we must not only vote the will of our constituents, but we must also do our homework, and sometimes we need to ignore the polls and do the right thing. This is one of those cases. We need to be on the right side of history, vote for equality and justice for all and vote no on HJR 6.”

Two outspoken opponents of marriage equity — Republcian state Reps. Glen Massie of Des Moines and Rep. Kim Pearson of Pleasant Hill — took the highly unusual step of refusing to answer questions in defense of the constitutional amendment when requested by Democratic state Rep. Nathan Willems of Lisbon. Willems eventually got state Rep. Erik Helland (R-Johnston) to discuss whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Iowa Constitution applies to everyone except for gay couples, with Hellend concluding that there is a fundamental disagreement on the issue.

Carolyn Jenison, executive director of the LGBT-rights group One Iowa, said the amendment “devalues families and divides Iowans.”

“The Constitution is meant to protect the freedoms and liberties of all Iowans,” she said after the bill passed. “It is inappropriate to use the political process to single out and deny a group of Iowans of their constitutional protections.”

In order to become law, the amendment must now pass in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat, has vowed to block it. If it succeeds there, it must be passed by both the House and Senate again in 2013 before it can be placed on the ballot.



Comment posted February 3, 2011 @ 2:34 am

Seriously?! Come on, Iowa. Get with it. Everybody deserves civil rights, not just conservatives.

Comment posted February 3, 2011 @ 2:34 am

Seriously?! Come on, Iowa. Get with it. Everybody deserves civil rights, not just conservatives.

Comment posted February 3, 2011 @ 5:27 am

Come on, Iowa. Get with it. Overturn that ill-conceived Iowa Supreme Court decision and define marriages as between a man and a woman.

Comment posted February 3, 2011 @ 5:29 am

Incidentally, can the reporter on this story exercise a bit of neutrality?? Just because one side of this issue refers to same-sex marriage it using the loaded term “marriage equity” doesn’t mean that the reporter should adopt that language. How about not sucking up to one side of this debate?

Comment posted February 3, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

I am an Iowan and I am completely disgusted with the lack of constitutionality of the this disgustingly blatant discriminatory resolution. I was so proud of our Iowa Supreme Court justices when they concluded that gay marriage is constitutional and should be protected under the law. To repeat Bruce Hunter…“Here’s the funny things about rights — they’re not supposed to be voted on,” said state Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines). Have my legislators forgotten about what their job is and IS NOT??? I am sorry, maybe they need to be reminded about civil rights and how those rights are protected under the constitution and are not to be “voted” on. Wow…I think the ones who voted for this resolution need to be ousted!
A very disappointed Iowan

Comment posted February 3, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

well, first of all, I am not sure how they jumped from gay marriages to incest, but whatever, there is another point I want to focus on.
I assume that Mr Anderson mean natural procreation when he says that “marriage is about responsible procreation”. Two things strike me when I read this.
Firstly, every straight couple can get pregnant by accident; whilst gay couples automatically choose a time when they feel mentally and financially able to raise a child – which in my opinion is as responsible as you can get – and therefore they absolutely fulfill Mr Anderson’s idea o what marriage is about.
Secondly, if he says that it’s only a marrige when you can conceive a child naturally, whithout help, I wonder whether or not Mr Anderson (and everyone who follows this argumentation) would allow straight couples to marry which cannot conceive a child naturally and who need the same treatments gay (female) couples need to become pregnant. Or those who are not fertile and adopt children just like gay couples do.

Comment posted February 4, 2011 @ 1:49 am

Please Jess, everyone KNOWS that only conservatives have rights. The rest of us are communist America haters. Didn’t you know?

Comment posted February 4, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

I wish the republicans and conservatives would just say what they want to, and not try and come up with these ridiculous arguments like ‘responsible procreation’. Talk about an argument with a slippery slope. Straight couples that don’t or can’t have children are somehow not good enough to get married?
If they don’t think gay people are worthy of getting married, or that they find the gay lifestyle disgusting (comparisons with incest?), or its just immoral – then just be man enough to argue it and stand behind it. But they can’t say it because they know it is out and out wrong.
What a bunch of cowards. They won’t get up in front of everyone and say why they voted no for it.

Comment posted February 4, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

… voted yes for it.

Comment posted February 6, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

I wish someone would point out that marriage existed before Christianity.. Everyone who voted yes on this is clearly a bigot or just trying to win over Christian votes.

Benjamin Scott-Pye
Comment posted April 5, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

It’s pretty hard to not “suck up to one side of the debate” when the debate is hate vs equality.

Benjamin Scott-Pye
Comment posted April 5, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

It’s pretty hard to not “suck up to one side of the debate” when the debate is hate vs equality.

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