Saturday, February 14, 2015

Have Iowa House Republicans Quietly Killed Gay Marriage Amendment Legislation?

Remember these two House Bills/Resolutions that would have amended Iowa's constitution to ban recognition of same-sex marriage and prevented Iowa's recorders from processing any more marriage licenses to gay couples while the constitutional amendment meandered through its processes? It looks like HJR4 (the one which would initiate the effort to amend our state constitution) has quietly died in committee:
Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Chip Baltimore appears likely to let the marriage amendment die again this year. His committee never took action on the 2013 version of the marriage amendment, even though Baltimore was nominally a supporter and co-sponsor. At that time, he had a convenient excuse, because supporters filed the marriage amendment less than a week before the "funnel" deadline. 

This year's first funnel deadline is Friday, March 6. With the exception of appropriations bills, most legislation that hasn't cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by that time will be considered dead for this session. There is still plenty of time for Baltimore to assign House Joint Resolution 4 to a subcommittee, pass the bill in subcommittee, and consider the bill in the full House Judiciary Committee, but I wouldn't put money on that happening. 

The marriage amendment was introduced and referred to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee on January 27. Typically, the next step would be for the chair to assign the bill to a subcommittee. Yet at this writing, HJR4 has not been assigned to a subcommittee

If Baltimore does bring the marriage amendment up in his committee, things could get awkward. Of the 13 Republicans now serving on the House Judiciary Committee, just three (Baxter, Heartsill, and Windschitl) are co-sponsoring HJR 4. Voting on the amendment could be a lose-lose proposition for the others (Baltimore, Gustafson, Hagenow, Nunn, Rizer, Rogers, Kaufmann, Heaton, Branhagen, and Jones). As the years pass, a vote to restore discrimination against LGBT Iowans will be increasingly unpopular and difficult to explain. Yet voting against a marriage amendment now would enrage social conservatives who still believe in the GOP platform's "traditional marriage" plank. 

Voting on the marriage amendment looks like a headache these Republicans don't need. It's easier to avoid attracting any public attention to the issue. 
It's also worth noting that the Democratic Party continues to control the Iowa Senate and they have steadfastly resisted efforts to allow anti-gay marriage amendment legislation to come up for a vote since marriage equality became a reality in this state back in 2009.

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