By Barb Arland-Fye
At press time Feb. 1, the Iowa House of Representatives was debating a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the legal definition of marriage to a union between one man and one woman. The debate followed a public hearing on the issue held the previous night in which proponents and opponents of the constitutional amendment spoke, according to Iowa Legislative News Service. The Quad-City Times reported that nearly 400 people listened to more than two hours of debate about House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6).
Iowa Legislative News Service said the majority of the House chamber is on the amendment as a co-sponsor, but the measure must go before the Senate and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, has vowed that it will not be brought up for consideration.
Supporters believe that Iowans should be allowed to vote on the definition of marriage, and that the issue shouldn’t be decided by an unelected court, the news service said. Supporters condemned violence and intolerance toward gays, but said the Supreme Court decision giving marriage rights to gay couples was “an attack on the rights of religious conservatives and contrary to the intent of God,” the news service reported.
IowaPolitics.com said that form state Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican who served 12 years in the Iowa Senate, has reversed course on his position on the issue. He was a lead sponsor to a similar constitutional amendment a few years ago, but said at the Jan. 31 hearing that he would urge a “no” vote on HJR 6 and ask that “this assembly continue to allow same-sex couples the ability to be joined in civil marriage.”
Angelo said the purpose of the state’s constitution is to protect the rights of individuals by limiting the government’s power to control the lives and properties of citizens, the news service reported. “The resolution before you places pro-active, legislative language in our Constitution meant to limit the ability of a select group of citizens to be civilly joined in marriage,” he said.
“It does not restrain government intrusion in the lives of law-abiding citizens and therefore violates the very purpose of our Iowa Constitution,” Angelo said.
The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) believes that it takes a man and a woman to have a marriage. “Marriage is about the emotional desires and the love that adults have for each other, but it is also about the sexual difference and openness to the possibility of bringing children into the world,” said Tom Chapman, the ICC’s executive director. “We believe there should be a reasonable expectation that the state should recognize the importance of both a mother and a father.”
In April 2009, Iowa Catholic bishops updated their statement on an Iowa Constitutional Amendment Regarding Marriage. In part, the bishops said: “Marriage is a basic human and social institution. Though it is regulated by civil laws and Church laws, it did not originate from either the Church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither Church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.
“Marriage, whose nature and purposes are established by God, can only be the union of a man and a woman and must remain such in law. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children.”
The bishops were responding to the April 3, 2009, decision in which the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Polk County District Court allowing gay and lesbian couples full access to the institution of civil marriage.