Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives used a procedural rule yesterday in an attempt to advance a bill that would allow the people of Iowa to vote on an amendment to the state’s constitution that would define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The procedure required 51 votes to pass, but House Republicans could only muster 45 votes. The lone Democrat vote was cast by Rep. Dolores Mertz.
Senate Republicans also attempted a similar move in their chamber. Like House Rule 60, the Senate’s discharge petition would bring the amendment up for a vote, but it would first need 26 signatures. Like in the House, the Senate petition was only signed by one Democrat, Tom Hancock. The discharge petition is seven votes short of the 26 it needs to pass.
While the effort to advance the marriage amendment failed, Republicans and traditional marriage advocates are now able to take issue with a number of Democrats who have publically stated that they support letting the people of Iowa vote, yet refuse to do anything to advance that cause.
The most notable example of this is Rep. Mike Reasoner. Reasoner actually introduced House Joint Resolution 2001 himself, yet wouldn’t vote for the procedure that would allow the House the opportunity to vote on the bill. Likewise, newly elected Rep. Curt Hanson said during his campaign that he supported traditional marriage, yet when he had the opportunity to do something to advance his conviction, he cowered behind his Democratic leadership team.
In addition to Reasoner and Hanson, other Democrats like Larry Marek, Geri Huser, Brian Quirk, Kurt Swaim, and Wayne Ford have all said they support traditional marriage, but they refuse to do anything to advance the cause. Their unwillingness to stand for traditional marriage will likely be one of the issues that their opponents this fall will point out to voters in their districts.
With the procedural moves now exhausted, traditional marriage advocates must now either find new routes to advance the marriage amendment, or be content with the actions and results from the legislature yesterday. If the ultimate goal was getting Democrats who say the support traditional marriage on record, then it’s easy to say that the Republican leaders in the house were successful.
For the most part, reaction to the legislative Republicans procedural moves has been positive, but did Republicans really do everything they could to advance the marriage amendment? I don’t think so. Missing from all the action today was one critical component – the people of Iowa.
Legislative Republicans did do their part. They read the rules, made the correct motions at the right time, but nothing was done to put pressure on these Democrats who claim to support traditional marriage. It’s probably a safe bet that most people in these Democrats’ districts still don’t know the vote event took place. They might not know until they get a piece of mail sometime this fall.
Instead of keeping the timing of these procedural moves secret, Republicans and groups like the Iowa Family Policy Center should have been putting public pressure on enough Democrats to pass the House initiative or support the Senate’s discharge petition.
The entire premise of the marriage amendment is to let the people of Iowa vote on an issue of this great importance. Yet, Republican legislators didn’t think to enlist the help of the public that helped them defeat a number of union bills and the repeal of federal deductibility just one year ago.
If there is one thing that Iowa Republicans should have learned by now, it’s that they are successful only when they partner with the people of Iowa to accomplish their legislative goals. For some unknown reason, leaders in the House and Senate thought that they could handle an issue of this magnitude on their own.
Traditional marriage advocates must now ask themselves how many times they are willing to watch Republicans try to advance their issue with these procedural moves. Yesterday’s unsuccessful attempt means the earliest they could pass an amendment would be 2014, and that’s only if Republicans control both legislative chambers. The likelihood of that happening is slim.
I have been criticized by some of the most vocal traditional advocates for encouraging people to explore the constitutional convention option. Yesterday’s failed attempts only confirm my beliefs. The legislature is unresponsive to the will of the people. No matter how adamant Bob Vander Plaats is that his executive order is the way to go, it’s not constitutional. That leaves us with just two options. Wait six to ten years and hope that public sentiment still supports amending the constitution, or vote for a constitutional convention to make the changes now.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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