No discipline for state senator who sought to pressure county recorders

Charlotte Eby reported at Covering Iowa Politics that the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee

voted unanimously Tuesday to dismiss an ethics complaint against a lawmaker who had encouraged county recorders to refuse to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Sen. Merlin Bartz, R-Grafton, has been one of the most vocal critics of the Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. On his Web site, Bartz had encouraged Iowans who also are opposed to same-sex marriage to sign petitions asking county recorders to not issue same-sex licenses.

Members of the ethics committee said Bartz was simply exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech, and voted 6-0 to reject the complaint after a short discussion.

Last month I posted the full text of the petition along with the language Bartz used to promote the drive on his official Iowa Senate website.

Ed and Lynn Fallon of I’M for Iowa filed the ethics complaint against Bartz, saying he should not have encouraged elected county officials to fail to comply with an Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

The petition drive did not succeed in blocking same-sex marriages; so far no county recorders in Iowa have refused to issue marriage licenses. On the other hand, I read that some petitions containing some 17,000 signatures were delivered to county recorders the week of April 27.

If even a fraction of the people who collected signatures followed Bartz’s instructions to send copies to Chuck Hurley’s Iowa Family Policy Center, then the drive will turn out to be a list-building bonanza for that organization.

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