Gay marriage rallies reignite issue in Iowa
DES MOINES - Supporters and opponents of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage lobbied lawmakers, rallied on the Capitol steps and reignited the debate over who should be allowed to marry in Iowa.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, has promised to keep the legislation - which has already passed the House - bottled up in committee. So conventional Statehouse wisdom is that the amendment is all but dead this session.
But rallies and cornering lawmakers for constituent chats also show legislators that voters are watching what happens from here on out.
"I don't think (Gronstal will) budge on the issue, he's said that he won't," said Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport. Seng was one of a handful of Democrats that signed a petition last year to bring the amendment to the floor for a vote. "He has an election coming up, and this has become an election issue."
The pro-same sex amendment folks were the flashier, louder and seemingly larger group that pushed their cause Tuesday. Most of them wore red, they rallied on the front steps and brought speakers for their cause, including former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.
Moore is best known for defying a federal court order to remove a sculpture of the 10 commandments from the state courthouse when was chief judge.
"It's not a Republican issue. It's not a Democratic issue. It's an American issue," Moore told the crowd of several hundred who had gathered on the west steps of the Capitol and cheered as the judge spoke. "Marriage is between one man and one woman; it's the foundation of our country."
The rally, which also included speeches by the Rev. Cary Gordon of Sioux City, the Rev. Keith Ratliff of Des Moines and Bob Vander Plaats from the Family Leader, lasted for about 90 minutes and ended with a request for the 300 or so gathered to go inside and talk to their legislators.
The Family Leader, which helped mobilize the electorate to oust three judges who supported same-sex marriage in the case of Varnum v. Brien, organized Tuesday's rally.
"This was the most important thing that I could do today," said Claude Neill of Clio. "It was definitely worth it."
The gay rights advocacy group One Iowa, took a different tack. Its supporters didn't rally but spent the day lobbying legislators. Many of them wore adhesive buttons on their clothes that read "Together we are one Iowa."
"I'm here because I support full equality for all people," said Miles Brainard, a 17-year-old Mason City High School senior who traveled to Des Moines with a group of friends as part of the One Iowa contingent.
Brainard said he and his friends watched the Family Leader rally for a short time from a distance. "The only thing that struck me was some people brought their really young children all dressed up in red," he said. "It didn't feel right."