One simple question, three non-answers on Iowa gay marriage

Everyone who moderates a debate this year could learn from the journalists who guided the May 1 Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidates' debate: Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Paul Yeager of Iowa Public Television, and Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio. Too many journalists ask long-winded questions that are easy to evade, or ask about hot topics of no lasting importance, or ask about policies outside the scope of the office the candidates are seeking. In contrast, almost every question the panelists asked during Saturday's debate was direct and addressed an issue the next governor of Iowa will face.

Mind you, asking an unambiguous question doesn't guarantee that you'll get a straight answer from a politician. Look what happened when Dorman asked the Republicans, "Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?"

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One simple question, three non-answers on Iowa gay marriage

Everyone who moderates a debate this year could learn from the journalists who guided the May 1 Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidates' debate: Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Paul Yeager of Iowa Public Television, and Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio. Too many journalists ask long-winded questions that are easy to evade, or ask about hot topics of no lasting importance, or ask about policies outside the scope of the office the candidates are seeking. In contrast, almost every question the panelists asked during Saturday's debate was direct and addressed an issue the next governor of Iowa will face.

Mind you, asking an unambiguous question doesn't guarantee that you'll get a straight answer from a politician. Look what happened when Dorman asked the Republicans, "Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?"

There's more...

Prop. 8 Federal Lawsuit Begins, Cue Right-Wing Media Hysteria

This week in a San Francisco Federal District Court, a legal odd couple will be on display. Attorney David Boies, who represented Al Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous 2000 case ofBush v. Gore, and conservative attorney Ted Olson, who represented George W. Bush, are joining forces to overturn California's Proposition 8. It will be their contention that the initiative passed by voters in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in the Golden State violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, singles out gays and lesbians for a disfavored legal status, and discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.

Regardless of which side prevails, experts agree the case is likely to be appealed all the way to the highest court in the land.

Cue right-wing media hysteria and homophobia.

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Will any Republican stand up for the rule of law?

My father, a Rockefeller Republican, was ashamed to have voted for Richard Nixon after learning about Nixon's role in the Watergate burglary and cover-up. I've been thinking about him a lot while reading the various lame conservative excuses for George W. Bush's torture policy and its architects. Where are the Republicans who would have once felt ashamed by high-level lawlessness and immorality?

During the past three weeks I have yet to hear one Iowa Republican politician defend the unanimous Supreme Court decision in Varnum v Brien (authored by a Republican-appointed judge). On the contrary, various prominent Republicans have called for the legislature or the county recorders to ignore that ruling.

Now Republican State Senator Merlin Bartz has teamed up with a religious right organization to pressure county recorders into refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bartz is using his official page on the Iowa Senate Republicans website to promote a petition being circulated by Chuck Hurley's Iowa Family Policy Center. I posted the full text of the petition at the bottom of this post at Bleeding Heartland, and several other Iowa blogs covered the story yesterday too. So far, I haven't heard a single Republican disavow this effort to intimidate county recorders.

I have nothing profound to add. I am just amazed by the lengths to which Republicans will go to disregard laws they don't like.

Speaking of laws, if any reader has expertise regarding the law on cooperation between political parties and 501(c)3 organizations, I would like to hear from you about whether Bartz has crossed the line. According to an e-mail the Iowa Family Policy Center sent out to its own supporters, Bartz

took to the floor of the Iowa Senate and urged the people of Iowa to communicate with their County Recorders concerning the Supreme Court opinion about marriage.

Citing the Iowa Constitution, and Iowa Code concerning marriage, Senator Bartz presented a petition for Iowa Citizens to use as they encourage their Recorder to refuse to issue so-called same sex "marriage" licenses. That petition is attached to this e-mail, and is available for download at http://www.iowasenaterepublica...

Senator Bartz, who has been working with the Iowa Family Policy Center to push for the Iowa Marriage Amendment in the Senate and to protect Marriage across the state, offered the following instructions for use of the petition.

So, Bartz's official page on the Iowa Senate Republicans website is giving instructions on how to circulate the Iowa Family Policy Center's petition, including asking people to send copies of the signatures and addresses they collect to the Iowa Family Policy Center "for accountability purposes." Is it ok for Bartz to use his official website to help this 501(c)3 group build its direct-mail and fundraising list? Anyone with knowledge of this subject can e-mail me confidentially: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com

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Iowa Senate leader dares conservatives to push for Constitutional Convention

Iowa Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal is on a tear this week. On Monday he rejected Republican efforts to bring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the Senate floor. Read his remarks here (scroll to the bottom) or watch the video:

On Tuesday Gronstal in effect dared conservatives to push for a Constitutional Convention, which might consider adopting an amendment to ban gay marriage. From the Des Moines Register:

"I'm inclined to hope they succeed, if that's their strategy," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has saluted Friday's Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. "There's a lot of good, progressive issues that we could pursue: a woman's right to choose, guaranteed health care for all Iowa citizens, workers' rights -- so if there are people that want to help us get to a constitutional convention, that's kind of my dream world."

If Iowa voters approve a ballot initiative next November on calling a Constitutional Convention, the Iowa legislature will draw up rules for selecting delegates to that body. If the convention approves proposed constitutional amendments, a special election will be scheduled, and voters will consider each amendment separately, not as a bloc.

Some Iowa Republicans don't sound eager to roll the dice on this procedure:

Sen. Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City, said he will likely vote against holding a convention. "We have bumps in the road but we're operating pretty well without going in and messing with the Constitution," Wieck said.

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley said he will continue to push for a second route toward a constitutional amendment on gay marriage: votes by the Iowa House and Iowa Senate in two consecutive general assemblies followed by a vote of the people.

But McKinley understands why some might have an interest in a constitutional convention.

"I think the reason there is some appeal at least on the surface is citizens feel very disenfranchised from their government," McKinley said. "Democracies are crazy things. Sometimes the people want to do things that maybe the elites don't agree with."

Although I'm confident that over time a large majority of Iowans will come to support marriage equality, I confess that I am a bit nervous about the issue coming to a statewide vote in 2010 or 2011. At the same time, like Gronstal, I can imagine lots of good amendments that might come out of a Constitutional Convention.

Share any relevant thoughts or speculation in this thread.

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