Democrats in the Iowa legislature killed efforts Thursday to bring the gay marriage issue to the ballot, rejecting the pleas of hundreds of demonstrators who flooded the state Capitol in a bid to get legislators on the record for one battle in a same-sex marriage war brewing for the 2010 elections.
Nor is Iowa alone, as a series of actions in the past week have pushed the issue to the front of the nation's politics. The Vermont state legislature became the first to pass a same-sex marriage law democratically, and the District of Columbia decided to recognize gay marriages performed outside the city.
Earlier this week, a group that played a major role in the successful campaign to pass California's Proposition 8 against gay marriage in November took its campaign national with a new ad to air in Iowa and four other states.
But it was a 7-0 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court last week striking down the state's marriage law as discriminatory that started this latest round and prompted Thursday's tumultuous events in Des Moines, upsetting what had been expected to be an uneventful end to the legislative session.
“Let us vote,” chanted hundreds of traditional-marriage proponents after Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy ruled out of order a motion to bring to the floor House Joint Resolution 6 - which would have started the process of amending the state constitution.
“We're not going to let mob rule rule this state,” Mr. Murphy said as security guards escorted the crowd from the House gallery after the decision.
But a later maneuver to amend a state budget bill to ban same-sex marriage, though it did not pass, succeeded in getting lawmakers on the record in a way that gay-marriage opponents plan to use in 2010 when Iowans vote on state legislators, the governor, and three of the seven justices in last week's ruling.
Under Iowa's cumbersome initiative system, both legislative chambers must pass a resolution in support of the constitutional amendment twice, and in different years, before the measure can make the ballot. The Iowa Supreme Court decision came near the end of this year's legislative session, leaving lawmakers who oppose gay marriage with few options and little time. Not passing an amendment this session effectively delayed by a year any possible vote.
While the Iowa legislature has no legally set adjournment date, lawmakers had expected the session to end Friday. But unrelated budget difficulties required lawmakers to extend the session, probably by about another week, and gave Republicans another opening.
After failing to secure a vote on a constitutional amendment during the morning session Thursday, state Rep. Christopher Rants came back in the afternoon with a provision to the budget bill that would eliminate the budget language and replace it with a plan for a traditional-marriage constitutional amendment.
Mr. Murphy again refused to allow the provision, ruling it out of order.
But after much wrangling, he did allow a vote on whether to suspend the rules and consider the measure. The vote failed on a near party-line 54-44 vote, with two Republicans absent - one is serving in Iraq - and two Democrats voting with Republicans in favor of suspending the rules.
“The speaker went to extraordinary lengths to avoid having that vote; however, the rules were on my side,” said Mr. Rants, a Republican and a former House speaker.
Even though the vote was purely procedural, it forced Democrats to go on the record as to whether voters should be allowed to consider the same-sex marriage issue, Mr. Rants said.
“In this case, a procedural vote is a real vote,” said Brian English, public relations director for the Iowa Family Policy Center, which co-sponsored the rally. “There are too many people paying attention to this.”View Entire Story
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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