A few minutes ago Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy ruled out of order an attempt by Republicans to bring a resolution to the floor on amending Iowa's constitution to ban gay marriage. The resolution did not pass any House committee before last month's "funnel" deadline, so could only have reached the floor if leadership made an exception for it.
I will update this post as more news becomes available. You can read a couple of different play-by-play accounts on the Twitter feeds of journalist Charlotte Eby and Republican Representative Renee Schulte. It sounds as if leadership conferred for a while before Murphy ruled the resolution out of order. Iowa Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal, who refused to let a similar bill come to the Senate floor on Monday, was in the House chamber this morning speaking with House leaders.
Earlier today marriage equality opponents and supporters rallied at the Iowa capitol. I wasn't there, but Charlotte Eby provided the highlights. Former State Representative Danny Carroll told the crowd that politicians who don't listen to the word of God should be replaced. Someone doesn't seem to understand the constitution too well. Unfortunately for Carroll and fortunately for us, the voters of Iowa House district 75 sent him packing in 2006, and voted him down by a larger margin in his rematch against Eric Palmer last year.
One Iowa is the leading advocacy group for marriage equality in this state. If you believe in their cause, please kick in a few bucks to support their organizing and education work.
Background: The bill in question, House Joint Resolution 6, proposes an amendment to the Iowa constitution stipulating that marriage is between one man and one woman (here is the text). The co-sponsors of HJR 6 are Republican Dwayne Alons (not one of the brightest lights in Iowa politics) and Democrat Dolores Mertz (the kind of Democrat who votes against good labor bills and buries bills that would reduce pollution from factory farms).
The Iowa legislature's "funnel" date passed in early March. Under the normal rules of operation, bills that did not clear at least one House or Senate committee by that time were dead for the 2009 session.
UPDATE with more background on the procedure for amending the Iowa Constitution.
The normal amendment process requires that two separately elected Iowa legislatures approve the amendment before it goes on a general-election ballot. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal made clear on Monday that he will not allow a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage to come to the Iowa Senate floor. Democrats hold a 32-18 majority in the upper chamber. Assuming Gronstal holds the line next year as well, Republicans would need to retake the Iowa legislature in 2010, pass an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in 2011 or 2012, hold the Iowa legislature in 2012, and pass the constitutional amendment again in 2013 or 2014 before the amendment would go to Iowa voters for approval.
There is another way to amend the Iowa constitution, which I discussed in more detail earlier this week. Short version: an initiative on calling a Constitutional Convention will appear on the ballot in November 2010. If a simple majority of Iowans vote to call a Constitutional Convention, the Iowa legislature would have to draw up rule in 2011 for selecting delegates to that body, and the convention would occur in 2011. If any amendments are approved at the convention, they would go to Iowa voters is a special election, most likely to be held in late 2011 or early 2012. Iowans would not vote on proposed constitutional amendments as a bloc--each would appear on the ballot as a separate item and would need a simple majority to pass.
Senate Majority leader Gronstal on Tuesday dared conservatives to push for this option. From the Des Moines Register:
"I’m inclined to hope they succeed, if that’s their strategy," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has saluted Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. "There’s a lot of good, progressive issues that we could pursue: a woman’s right to choose, guaranteed health care for all Iowa citizens, workers’ rights — so if there are people that want to help us get to a constitutional convention, that’s kind of my dream world."
UPDATE: One Iowa says this is not over yet.
Right-wing extremists are resorting to underhanded tactics in an attempt to undermine legislative leadership and take away the freedom to marry! While legislative leadership stood firm this morning, extremists are attempting to overthrow the House chair and push an anti-marriage amendment to the floor!
We NEED you to call your Representative in the next hour to firm up our support! Find your Representative here, then place a call immediately.
House Swithboard: 515-281-3221
Tell them to stand firm with legislative leadership and oppose this distracting and divisive move. With all the challenges Iowa is facing, it’s time for our elected officials to get back to work for Iowa families!
PS - If you don’t have time to call, please email your legislator now!
Iowans, take action, especially if your House rep is a Democrat.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The Des Moines Register explains House Speaker Murphy's ruling:
Murphy's ruling today stemmed from the fact that the House cannot suspend rules it has enacted jointly with the Senate. House members can only suspend their own rules.
The only way to suspend the joint rules is for someone to introduce a resolution in the Rules and Administration Committee. If it starts in the House, then there’s a vote in House committee and in the full House. If it passes, it goes to Senate committee then a vote of the full Senate.
That explains why Senate leader Gronstal was in the House chamber.
The Des Moines Register article also makes clear that House Republicans aren't giving up:
But Republicans hinted that they will make another run at the issue later today.
"We’ll just let the day unfold," said House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha. He later added. "The Legislature has a whole mass of rules and while you can use them sometimes to hide behind, sometimes they work to your advantage in other situations."
I don't pretend to know what rules he is referring to, but please tell all your friends in Iowa to contact their House representatives and ask them to respect the Iowa Supreme Court's decision in Varnum v Brien.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE at 4 pm Central: More drama this afternoon, as Iowa House Republican Chris Rants tried to attach an amendment banning gay marriage to a bill on health care, according to Charlotte Eby. House Speaker Murphy ruled the amendment out of order, but Rants moved to suspend rules. Eby said "some Ds" voted with Republicans and named Mertz and Geri Huser, but the motion failed. I don't know whether Mertz and Huser were the only Democrats voting with Republicans on that bill.
If we can't defeat Huser in the 2010 primary with all the bad votes she's cast, I don't know what to say. She didn't even have a Republican opponent in 2008. I am not giving a penny to the House Democratic leadership fund as long as any money could be spend defending incumbents like Mertz and Huser.