Last week, in a vote of 62 to 37, the Iowa House passed House Joint Resolution 6, effectively overturning the state’s 2009 unanimous Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriages. The bill would put a referendum on the ballot asking voters to redefine marriage as a union between a man and a woman and eliminate civil unions or any form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples in the state. The measure is now in the state senate, where Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D) has vowed to “fight attempts to pass the amendment.” On Saturday, he told the Des Moines Register that he would not put the rights of a minority to a vote:
GRONSTAL: We did not put it to a vote of the people when Iowa took out … the prohibition on interracial marriage. We did not put the right of different-race couples to a vote of the people. We didn’t put to a vote of the people whether or not women should be admitted to the bar. We didn’t put to a vote of the people whether Ralph should be put back into slavery — in the first decision of the Iowa Supreme Court.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to put your rights to a vote of the popular will of the people. I believe that’s what the constitution is there for, to protect everybody’s rights and to avoid the tyranny of the majority. [...]
Because if I can do that to gay people, I can do it to Catholics, I can do it to Methodists, I can do it to Baptists, I can do it to blacks, I can do it to Hispanics. If I can put to a vote of the people, people’s constitutional rights, then you may be popular today — old white guys like us might be popular today and our rights will be fine — but someday the baby boom will be gone and there won’t be enough old white guys left to protect us from the tyranny of the majority.
Despite some misgivings from Democrats, however, at the end of January, the marriage bill failed a crucial test vote in the Senate and went down on a procedural matter along party lines.
Meanwhile, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) has said that the Iowa Supreme Court erred in legalizing gay marriage in 2009, but stressed that he doesn’t want to “impose my will on the people” and won’t talk about whether he supports an effort to overturn the court’s unanimous decision. He has previously said he does not support impeaching the remaining the justices over the decision.