Iowa House Speaker says lawmakers won’t let ‘mob rule this state’
DES MOINES, Iowa — Gay marriage opponents on Thursday, April 9 threatened political retaliation against those blocking efforts to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court decision, but they failed to force the Legislature to vote on the issue.
In an emotional morning at the Statehouse, about 300 gay marriage critics rallied outside the building and then jammed the House chamber to back efforts to force a vote on a resolution starting the process of amending the constitution to ban gay marriage.
They chanted, "Let us vote," after House leaders blocked the effort by ruling it out of order.
"We’re not going to let mob rule rule this state," said House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque. "There’s no reason for this type of behavior and we’re not going to put up with it."
At the rally earlier, gay marriage opponents said they would remember last week’s Supreme Court decision when they cast ballots in November 2010.
"This is only the beginning," said Danny Carroll, a former legislator and now chairman of the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center. "We will remember and we will remember in November."
Chuck Hurley, also a former legislator and president of the policy center, noted that in addition to legislators and Gov. Chet Culver, three Iowa Supreme Court justices would face retention elections next year.
That includes Chief Justice Marsha Ternus.
"Maybe she will know how it feels after November of 2010," said Hurley.
Justices Michael Streit and David Baker also will be up for retention elections next year. The Supreme Court struck down the state’s gay marriage ban on a 7-0 decision.
"Three judges on the ballot. We will remember next November," Hurley said. "You are not fooling anyone."
In Iowa, judges are appointed through a merit-selection process that was approved by voters in the 1960s. Voters decide whether to keep a judge in office. Supreme court judges are up for retention every eight years, while court of appeals and district court judges are up every six years.
The Rev. Keith Ratliff, an African-American minister from Des Moines, rejected arguments by some that efforts for gay rights are similar to the civil rights movement.
"This is a choice issue," said Ratliff, who claimed that gays and lesbians choose their sexual preference, unlike race.
To amend the Iowa constitution, a resolution must be approved in two consecutive General Assemblies, and then by voters in a statewide election. That resolution is sitting in a House committee, and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, sought to force a vote after the rally.
Murphy denied his request that rules be suspended to allow the resolution to skip a committee and be considered in the full House.
"It’s a procedural issue," said Murphy, who has supported the Supreme Court ruling. "I feel very comfortable with the ruling I made."
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, has said he won’t allow debate on the issue in that chamber during the closing days of the session.
Gay marriage came up again later Thursday when the House debated a $1.25 billion measure paying for health and human services programs.
Rep. Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, offered an amendment striking the entire spending package and replacing it with a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
That was ruled out of order, and a procedural effort to force debate was rejected on a 44-54 vote.
"It means that the Supreme Court ruling stands for today," said Rants. "People are going to have to change the hearts and minds of their legislators."
The vote was largely along party lines with Democrats against debating the issue and Republicans in favor. Democrats Geri Huser, of Altoona, and Dolores Mertz, of Ottosen, crossed over and voted to debate the issue.
"This latest political posturing by House Republicans shows that this issue really was all about politics," Murphy said. "They were willing to strike the entire bill which spends more than $1 billion on programs for our neediest citizens."