Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Legislative lightweights and gay marriage


Iowa’s Republican lawmakers failed Tuesday in procedural efforts that would have brought a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage before the Legislature for debate this term.

This means, providing the issue remains a legislative one, a possible public vote on such an amendment, if passed by the Legislature as required during two consecutive sessions, still requires a GOP legislative majority and remains several years down the road.

So for the time being, gay men and lesbians can continue to marry at will in Iowa. I need be in no hurry to announce my engagement or order invitations.

Since the Democrat majority in both the House and Senate already had made it perfectly clear that the amendment would not be considered this year, Tuesday’s maneuvering was a GOP stunt.

Republicans know full well that if a vote on such an amendment could be held this fall, in all likelihood it would pass. This has nothing in particular to do with a bigoted majority, merely that many Iowans who bear gays and lesbians no ill will still are not comfortable with same-sex marriage, feel civil union are more appropriate or some combination of the above. Add this fluid group to the hard-line anti-gay minority and you have a majority.

Republicans also know that as time passes what seemed novel at first comes to seem ordinary, so the more time that passes the less likely success.

None of the horrors predicted by the GOP and its allegedly Christian allies after the April 2009 court decision that legalized gay marriage have developed. Most of the same-sex marriages that have occurred involved ordinary people, most of whom had been in committed relationships for years. Although some out-of-state couples have come here to marry, the numbers have been insufficient to bail out the state economy.

The majority of Iowans, too, seem remarkably unconcerned about the issue. A weekend Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, for example, found that roughly 62 percent did not consider gay marriage an issue worth legislative time. Poll participants were more concerned with texting while driving, puppy mills and other issues.

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Republicans dd not help themselves in this effort by allowing jackasses like Rep. Jason Schultz, Schleswig, and Matt Windschill, Missouri Valley, off their leashes to target Iowa kids.

These two great minds proposed a bill that would have removed language from Iowa’s Safe Schools Act that protects gay, lesbian and transgender students from bullying in public schools.

According to Schultz, the two meant no harm to gay or transgender youngsters, merely wanted to spur debate on gay marriage. He argued such language wasn’t needed since school administrators already were protecting students. But curiously the dynamic duo did not propos removing language that protects heterosexual students or rescinding the Safe Schools Act entirely.

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So Republican lawmakers, including Chariton’s own Paul McKinley, now are encouraging Iowans to vote “yes” to a constitutional convention, a ballot question that automatically appears on the state’s general election ballot every 10 years. The reasoning is, the convention could pass an amendment banning gay marriage that could go to voters much sooner, say in 2011.

The difficulty is, a constitutional convention involves far more than a bunch of anti-gay-marriage activists getting together, forging an amendment they like, then going home and waiting for the election.

If a convention is called, the entire constitution is opened for amendment (although not to rewriting). Each amendment that emerged would be voted upon separately.

The Legislature would have to come up with a way to select representative delegates to the convention from across the state that could withstand court challenge in order to be legitimate. Since urban areas have gained and continue to gain rapidly in proportional representative strength, such a convention automatically would be pro-urban and anti-rural.

All sorts of interesting amendments are possible --- combining Iowa counties, for example, to promote more efficient administration (goodbye to those courthouses in or near 99 county seat squares), statewide zoning to squeeze livestock confinement operations out of existence, mandatory consolidation of school districts into let’s say county units, redirecting road funds from rural areas to city streets, etc. There’s not even any guarantee delegates would approve an anti-gay-marriage amendment.

Sounds like it could be fun and it certainly would be interesting to watch the dust fly. But I’m not sure we can afford that kind of entertainment.

2 comments:

Ed said...

I am one of the 62% you mentioned who think we here in Iowa have more important things to concern ourselves with than gay marriages. However, I am less sure that if it were brought to a public vote that there would be a majority against it even if you included the middle group unsure of the issue. I think this is a demographical topic with the younger generations, having grown up amidst this issue out in the public, being for allowing gay marriages and those older than me who weren't brought up until the last decade or so around the issue being against it. Even if by some miracle, the vote to ban gay marriages passed, I think it would only be a matter of time when enough of our elders die off to allow the issue to be overturned.

On your last note, I'm not sure I want to be a witness to the flying dust if a convention were to be held. I'm not looking forward to the governor's race this year simply because I'm sure there will be more than enough ugliness to go around in that one without adding a convention to the mix.

Bob said...

I, like Ed, am one of the 62 percent and I find some comfort in that number. Unlike Ed, though, I think, sad to say, the vote would pass.

My bigger concern is the jackass proposal to remove protection for gay and transgender students from the school safety bill. I have no idea what my boys' sexual orientation is yet, but I am hopeful that they will be tolerated and, just as importantly, tolerate those who are different from them.

Too often, we hear from the right that it is tired of these "special rights" given to minorities. They are not "special rights," they are protection against having the rights they enjoy - education, safe schools, free speech, whatever else - taken away from them.