GOP lawmakers in Iowa‘s House are putting forward a bill that would prohibit the state’s county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a public vote on a constitutional amendment is passed.
The measure is sponsored by Representative Glen Massie (R- Des Moines), who told the Des Moines Register that his ambition behind the bill is to advocate Judeo Christian ethics as law.
“The Republic is ruled by law. Now the question is from what source do those laws come,” Massie said.
“Everything I do in this building I look at as: I swore an oath to a supreme creator to uphold his law. I know that’s something more of a lecture but I want you to know where I come from. Is this guy just another religious Bible-thumping nut or do I have some reasoning for my thoughts? Historically, I think I have some reasoning for my thoughts.”
Massie was joined by fellow Republican lawmakers Dwayne Alons (R-Hull), Tom Shaw (R-Laurens), Kim Pearson (R-Pleasant Hill), Royd Chambers (R-Sheldon) and Betty De Boef (R- What Cheer).
The Register notes that review of laws by the Supreme Court is one of the fundamental pieces of Iowa’s checks and balances system.
However, there is a provision in the Iowa Constitution (Article 5, Section 4) that allows lawmakers the ability to make laws that skip Supreme Court review, noted Drake Law Professor Ian Bartrum.
“It’s technically probably constitutional but it’s a pretty rare and radical step and probably an ill-advised one,” said Bartrum. “I think this is a knee-jerk reaction. They say, we have this power and they don’t think about what this means to the outcome on the ground.”
That outcome: Iowa families could appeal a recorder’s decision in trial courts but those decisions would not be able to be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
It would make the lower courts ruling final and it would also set up the likelihood that Iowa would have pockets of the state were the law was recognized and others were it was thrown out.
“I think the result is that you would have a hodgepodge of rulings across the state,” Bartrum said. “It would depend on whatever the local district judge thought because were would be no uniform appeal.”
Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa said, “The Iowa House is leading us toward a constitutional crisis. Not only does this bill attempt to bypass the rules guiding the amendment process but also attempts to strip authority from Iowa’s top court.”
The GOP legislative efforts this session attempting to restrict same-sex marriage rights face uncertain outcomes.
The state senate has a narrow Democratic majority and Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs), has vowed to block any such measure.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Iowa — an April 2009 unanimous ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that deemed a law prohibiting same-sex civil marriage as unconstitutional.