Iowa Legislature to tackle gay marriage, abortion, Salvia and Four Loko in 2011

Tyler Kingkade

The economy dominated voters’ minds in the 2010 elections. However, in Iowa, after a controversial retention election put gay marriage at the forefront, the state legislature will likely deal with the issue in the 2011 session.

The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency is reported to be handling about 650 bill requests from current and soon-to-be members of the Legislature, which convenes Monday, and will run for 110 days this session. It took until Jan. 14 for LSA drafters to hit 650 bill requests two years ago. Many are from politicians, but about 150 are from state agencies.

Gay Marriage

Much of that can likely be attributed to Republicans riding high from the midterm elections, which included the controversial retention election ousting three Iowa Supreme Court justices over the court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.

GOP lawmakers will seek a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman. If it passes in 2011, it likely will not be law until at least 2013.

That’s because it would likely depend upon it to go before voters, if the resolution is passed, and in exactly the same form by the newly seated Legislature and the 85th General Assembly that gets elected in November 2012.

Gov.-elect Terry Branstad likened Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal to a “dictator” in December because Gronstal vowed to block a vote on such an amendment. The Democrat insists legislation concerning job creation should be a priority, which, as Branstad continued a post-election jobs tour during the holidays, seems to be the new governor’s priority as well.

Cityview’s Civic Skinny column was critical of the Des Moines Register recently devoting an article to Bob Vander Plaats so he could further explain why he believes the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage was unconstitutional:

…when in fact the seven justices who unanimously decided the case decided it solely on the basis of the Iowa constitution. “Civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals,” the court noted. Writing that the ruling is unconstitutional is like writing that the Iowa football team was undefeated this year. It is, as they say in law school, contrary to fact. Of course, some folks in Iowa City can’t accept the fact that their football team was mediocre, either.

Different Routes Explored To Halt Same-Sex Weddings

Vander Plaats is fundraising toward efforts to force an impeachment or resignation of the remaining four high court justices, now with his newly formed group, the Family Leader.

Freshman state Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, said he will also push for impeachment proceedings.

Republican Speaker-elect Kraig Paulsen said he’s open to allowing a vote on a constitutional marriage amendment as well as impeachment.

Paulsen said the effort would start in the Iowa House, where Republicans hold a 60-40 advantage but could stall in the Senate where Democrats retain a slim advantage. Democrats currently hold a 26-23 advantage in the Senate, with two seats left to be decided by special elections for Republicans who will be included in Branstad’s administration.

The Iowa Constitution says a justice may be impeached “for any misdemeanor or malfeasance in office.” If the House passes articles of impeachment, a trial will be held in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is needed for a judge to be removed.

Gronstal would allow a vote on impeachment, but doubts it would stand scrutiny as laid out by the constitution.

But even if the marriage amendment and impeachment efforts fail, conservatives are pushing against “anchor marriages.” Republican lawmakers will seek a residency requirement for couples seeking to be married in Iowa. The effort would aim to halt same-sex couples traveling to Iowa to exchange vows and then return to their home states.

Illinois recently legalized civil unions, which will take effect June 1, 2011. Nathan Tucker, a conservative Davenport attorney, wrote on the Iowa Republican blog in December:

Despite now being able to enter into a de facto marriage relationship in their home state, many gay Illinoisans still desire the perceived public approval and legitimacy that comes from the actual word “marriage.”  For them, the reciprocity provision provides the best of both worlds — obtain an actual marriage certificate in Iowa and have it recognized in Illinois.

This likely means an influx of Illinoisans crossing the border to obtain their sodomy licenses that will, for the first time, be recognized as valid when they return home.

In Davenport, about one-third of all same-sex marriage licenses came from Illinois, although they are not yet honored in the eastern neighboring state. Apparently, his words are being heeded for the 2011 legislative session by lawmakers.

Beyond that, legislators will look into a “marriage conscience protection” for county recorders responsible for issuing marriage licenses who object to same-sex marriages. Currently, they are not allowed to deny a same gender couple.

Religious institutions in Iowa are not required to honor or perform any gay couple’s wedding.

Abortionist Moves To Iowa

State Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, is attempting to implement a law to prevent Dr. LeRoy Carhart from establishing abortion clinics in the state of Iowa. Carhart, who has been in the Supreme Court twice in cases dealing with partial birth abortions, plans to move to Iowa from Nebraska because of strict abortion laws in the Cornhusker state. In Iowa, abortions are banned after the six-month mark, or second trimester, unless the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Johnson wants to prevent Iowa from “becoming a destination point for late-term abortions.”

Arsonists allegedly targeted Carhart on Sept. 6, 1991, the day of the passage of the Nebraska Parental Notification Law, setting fires at seven locations on his property. The attack killed two family pets and 17 horses, but was never officially ruled as arson. At the time, Carhart did not practice abortion full-time; it had only been a minor part of his practice. However, the attack encouraged Carhart to begin practicing it full-time, determined not to “cede a victory to the antis.”

Democrat Looks To Ban Salvia, K2 And Caffeinated Alcohol

Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, won’t be making friends with many young voters. He’s looking to ban K2 and salvia divinorum, two smokable substances which currently remain legal.

Public service announcements  with a family from Indianola have been running for nearly a year, concerning K2. The ban, if brought to a vote, would likely succeed, as would one on salvia, with few willing to lobby in support of the legal leaf.

Smith also wants to ban caffeinated alcohol drinks despite Four Loko, Joose and other drinks being kicked off Iowa shelves in December. Altered versions have re-appeared without some of the key ingredients, like caffeine.