Gay marriage supporters hold ‘virtual’ rally, e-mailing legislators and signing online petitions
DES MOINES, Iowa — Hundreds of gay marriage opponents gathered Monday, April 13 at the Statehouse for a soggy rally where speakers urged Gov. Chet Culver to block the state Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
While about 300 people rallied outside the Statehouse, supporters of the gay marriage ruling organized what they called a virtual rally in which they e-mailed legislators and signed Internet petitions.
At the rain-drenched rally, Republican candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats demanded Culver immediately intervene rather than wait as gay marriage opponents work to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The earliest voters could see the issue would be in 2012, and that seems unlikely given opposition by Democratic leaders in the Legislature.
"I don’t want to wait two years," said Vander Plaats. "I want this governor to issue an executive order that says there will be a stay on all same-sex marriages until the people of Iowa have the right to vote. If I were governor today, I would issue that executive order immediately."
Culver spokesman Phil Roeder dismissed Vander Plaats’ statement.
"Governors in Iowa do not have the ability to prevent or overturn a decision of the Supreme Court through an executive order," said Roeder. "It’s disappointing that some people, especially politicians, would try to mislead the public into thinking that governors do have such power."
Vander Plaats gave one of several fiery speeches to a crowd that later headed into the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers.
"We’re here today to send a message to the folks in the gold dome behind us that we do not have to bow down to the robes of the Supreme Court simply because they dictate that we must," said veteran conservative activist Bill Salier.
Salier argued for defying the high court’s decision.
"Let the Supreme Court know, thanks for your opinion, it’s just that and this law is still on the books," he said.
Salier urged political retaliation.
"If you’re sitting out here today and your legislator is squishy on these things, then you need to primary them," said Salier. "That goes for the Republican Party; that goes for the Democratic Party. These people must feel the heat of the people."
Opponents of the ruling have few options. The most viable is to push for a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s ruling, but that would require approval of two consecutive General Assemblies, then a statewide vote.
Iowa law also offers another option. Every 10 years — the next time is in 2010 — voters are asked during the general election if they want to call a constitutional convention. That convention wouldn’t be limited to the gay marriage issue and likely would spark a laundry list of efforts to alter the constitution.
Backers of the virtual rally urged supporters to make their case on line, "then go about their work like any other day."
"In these tough economic times, I can’t imagine asking folks to take off work or school to attend a protest at the Capitol," said Carolyn Jenison, head of the group One Iowa, which has led efforts in support of the marriage ruling.