House passes proposal suggesting amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage

Matt Wettengel

A resolution proposing an amendment to Iowa’s Constitution, specifying that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in the state of Iowa, passed through the Iowa House on Tuesday.

House Joint Resolution 6 was passed by a margin of 62-37. Though the decision by the House passed with a substantial majority of the vote,  Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames, maintained her stance against adding discrimination into the state’s constitution.

“I voted ‘no’ on the resolution,” Heddens said. “I do not believe you can put any type of discrimination in our state constitution. We have a long history in our state of supporting civil rights, from supporting interracial marriages, to disability rights, and I think the vote today was a defining moment in regards to civil right issues.”

While support of same-sex marriages varies across the state, from what she’s heard from her constituents, most Iowans are in support of marriage equality, Heddens said.

“We had the public hearing the other night and we had numerous individuals come forward and talk about marriage equality, and to me marriage is about a commitment to one another and supporting one another,” Heddens said. “My ‘no’ vote today was in support of that civil commitment that two individuals have for one another.”

In her opening remarks against the resolution, which took place during a subcommittee meeting Jan. 25, Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, addressed the importance that marriage equality has in Iowa.

“Marriage says we’re a family like nothing else does,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “It’s a critical and important way to care for the people that we love.”

Wessel-Kroeschell related the civil rights attained by same-sex couples through the Varnum v. Brien decision to Iowans’ values, such as the importance of families, the golden rule, pitching in to help each other out and the freedom to pursue happiness.

“Gay and lesbian couples might not seem the same as you and me, but they face the same challenges, like making ends meet, providing health care for their loved ones and maintaining their jobs in tough economic times,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “Marriage is an important part in building the security we all long for.”

At the end of her remarks, Wessel-Kroeschell clarified that the civil marriages allowed by the Varnum decision are separate from religious marriages and that no religious institutions would be forced to marry same-sex couples.

Having passed in the House, the resolution will be available to be presented before the Senate. Although the resolution made it through the House, Democratic Majority Leader Mike Gronstal stated in an interview with Dean Borg of Iowa Press, Friday, that he will not bring the legislation up before the Senate, as he does not believe that discrimination belongs in the Iowa Constitution.