Iowa House Speaker rejects attempt to bring constitutional amendment for vote (updated)

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 also had supporters at the capitol this morning. If you were there, please post a comment or a diary about what you saw.

UPDATE with 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.

SECOND UPDATE: One Iowa says this is not over yet and is urging supporters of marriage equality to contact their representatives today.

House Switchboard: 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!

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 this morning. The bill is HJR 6.

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: More drama this afternoon, as 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. 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.

FINAL UPDATE: According to The Des Moines Register, the amendment defeated this afternoon

would have gutted a $1.25 billion health and human services bill, House File 811, and replaced it with a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

That amendment failed on a 54-44 vote. Mertz and Huser were the only two House Democrats who voted with Republicans. Shame on them for trying to sacrifice a health care bill in order to pass an amendment that would put discrimination in our state constitution.

If your representative is one of the 54 Democrats who stood firm with Speaker Murphy, please call or e-mail to say thank you. I know that some of the House Democrats are personally uncomfortable with same-sex marriage, but they did the right thing today.

Murphy released this statement:

“The latest political stunt by House Republicans this afternoon proves this is all about politics.  It’s stunning that Republicans would choose to gut health care for our children, veterans, seniors and disabled Iowans to score political points.

Despite today’s political posturing and attempts to circumvent rules agreed to by Republicans earlier this year, my goal is to keep our focus

on helping middle class families struggling to make ends meet and balancing the state budget.

Iowans expect us to work together on the issues that unite us —good-paying jobs, affordable health care and a quality education.”

  • I think vigilence is still in order

    even if wingnuttery has seemingly exhausted al their legislative options for now.  

    Just as the GLBT movement gained it’s strenth and made its advancements thru visibility and persistance, the marriage equality movement has to do the same.  Now our job is to  stand up and be counted as we show the world, starting with our fellow Iowans, that the world is not ending.

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