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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 35
Iowa Senate leader will block anti-Gay marriage bill
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Iowa Senate leader will block anti-Gay marriage bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal says he will block a bill in the Iowa Legislature to refer a ban on same-sex marriage to voters.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Gronstal said he knows his stand against putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot could hurt him with some constituents, but he was willing to take the risk.

Gronstal made a similar commitment during the last legislative session, which began shortly after voters removed three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in 2009 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.

'I'm not going to put discrimination into the state's constitution,' said Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs.

Gronstal said he believes his position on marriage equality will attract as many voters as it repels.

'I hear some people who obviously don't like my position, but I hear lots of people who do like my position,' Gronstal said.

'My read is the public at large is changing pretty significantly,' Gronstal added. 'It used to be that if you're under the age of 30, two-thirds of you were probably fine with Gay marriage and if you were over 50, two-thirds of you were against it.'

'Now,' Gronstal said, 'more like two-thirds of the people under 40 are fine with it.'

Iowa Senate rules give Gronstal the sole power to schedule debates, and unless his fellow Democrats opt to remove him from his post or he changes his mind, his decision will push off a statewide marriage vote for at least several years.

Democrats currently hold a narrow 26-to-24-seat majority in the Senate.

To amend the Iowa Constitution, lawmakers elected in two consecutive elections would need to approve the amendment, meaning votes would be required in 2013 and 2015 at the earliest.

Unless the state then called a special election, the matter could not go to voters until 2016.

While the measure is expected to pass in the Republican-controlled House, Gronstal said he is confident the measure won't be taken up in the Senate.

'We staked out our position on that issue during the [last] session and I don't think there's a lot of room for doubt about where people stand on it, so if the House decides to pursue it again, I don't think the outcome will be significantly different,' said Gronstal.

Republican Senator David Johnson said his party will take up the issue again in the upcoming session. Republicans will frame the issue as a matter of letting voters decide, he said.

'The whole issue is should we put this out there and let Iowans decide,' Johnson said. 'I'm not going to waver from that.'

Meanwhile, Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad said on August 29 that 'there's no connection at all between Iowa's debate over gay marriage rights and the death of Waterloo teen Marcellus Andrews.'

'I think it's inappropriate to try to link these two,' Branstad added.

Andrews was killed in a brawl outside a friend's house on August 19. His killers repeatedly called him 'faggot' and other anti-Gay slurs both before and during their attack on him.

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