The case for marriage equality hits tv screens in Iowa

One Iowa is airing this television commercial in five markets around Iowa:

The full transcript of the ad is after the jump. I like the way the commercial places marriage equality and the Supreme Court's decision within the long tradition of diverse people finding freedom in Iowa under our state's Constitution. (Democratic legislative leaders cited Iowa's tradition of leadership in civil rights in their statement welcoming the Varnum v Brien decision. The historical landmarks they cited prompted Lambda Legal attorney Camilla Taylor to start building a case for marriage equality in Iowa in 2002.)

One Iowa's commercial also reminds viewers that the Supreme Court unanimously struck down discrimination and that the ruling "will not change religious marriage or how each religion defines that."

Visually, the ad mostly contains photos of Iowa landscapes, buildings and families (gay and straight), with a few words shown against a blank screen for emphasis. When the voice-over says, "some things remain the same," the word "hope" appears on the screen. When the voice-over says the "justices were not divided," the word "courage" appears on the screen. When the voice-over admonishes "those outsiders who want to put discrimination into our constitution," the word "respect" appears on the screen.

According to Iowa Politics, One Iowa is spending $75,000 to run this commercial for a week "in the Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Quad Cities and Sioux City media markets; on cable stations like CNN, MSNBC, HLN, Lifetime, and HGTV; and on Des Moines broadcast stations as well."

Donating to One Iowa will help keep this ad on the air. It's a welcome contrast to the absurd scare-mongering of the National Organization for Marriage's television ad attacking gay marriage. That commercial has already been debunked by Human Rights Campaign and brutally parodied on the Colbert Report.

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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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Update on marriage equality news in Iowa

While writing about other topics during the past week I got behind on Iowa marriage equality news. I did some catching up after the jump.

First things first, though. If you are planning a same-sex marriage in Iowa, please note that this will become possible on April 27, not April 24 as was widely reported after the Iowa Supreme Court announced its Varnum v Brien decision. Iowa's marriage application forms have already been changed, but the Supreme Court needs to issue an order putting its ruling into effect. Because of furloughs related to budget cuts, the court pushed back that date from April 24 to April 27.

One Iowa, the main advocacy organization for marriage equality in this state, wants to hear from people planning same-sex marriages in Iowa. They have some helpful resources. You can also sign up to follow One Iowa on Twitter here.

More links and a few laughs are below the fold.

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IA-Sen: Could Grassley face a primary challenge from the right?

Angry social conservatives are speculating that Senator Chuck Grassley could face a primary challenge in 2010. The religious right has been dissatisfied with Grassley for a long time (see here and here).

After the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the state's Defense of Marriage Act, Grassley issued a statement saying he supported "traditional marriage" and had backed federal legislation and a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But when hundreds of marriage equality opponents rallied at the state capitol last Thursday, and Republicans tried to bring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the Iowa House floor, Grassley refused to say whether he supported their efforts to change Iowa's constitution:

"You better ask me in a month, after I've had a chance to think," Grassley, the state's senior Republican official, said after a health care forum in Mason City.

Wingnut Bill Salier, who almost won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2002, says conservatives are becoming "more and more incensed [the] more they start to pay attention to how far [Grassley] has drifted."

Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn denies that party activists are unhappy with Grassley. I hope Salier is right and Grassley gets a primary challenge, for reasons I'll explain after the jump.

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Iowa House Democrats refuse to debate gay marriage ban

Following up on my last post, Iowa House Democrats rejected a second effort on Thursday to bring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the floor for debate.

On Thursday morning Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy ruled out of order an attempt to bring House Joint Resolution 6 to the floor. The bill was not approved by any House committee before the "funnel" deadline that passed last month. Republicans wanted to suspend the rules to allow the bill to be debated, but as the Des Moines Register explained,

Murphy's ruling today stemmed from the fact that the House cannot suspend rules it has enacted jointly with the Senate. House members can only suspend their own rules.

The only way to suspend the joint rules is for someone to introduce a resolution in the Rules and Administration Committee. If it starts in the House, then there's a vote in House committee and in the full House. If it passes, it goes to Senate committee then a vote of the full Senate.

Republicans vowed not to give up, and during this afternoon's debate, Representative Chris Rants offered an amendment that

would have gutted a $1.25 billion health and human services bill, House File 811, and replaced it with a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Murphy ruled the amendment out of order, but Rants called for a suspension of the rules so his amendment could be debated. The motion to suspend failed on a 54-44 vote, with two Democrats voting with Republicans: Dolores Mertz and Geri Huser. Mertz is a co-sponsor of HJR 6 and a generally lousy Democrat (see here and here). I also learned today from Daily Kos commenter Queen Boudica that Mertz is active with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Geri Huser is a business-friendly Democrat who won't back key legislative priorities for organized labor. Shame on them for trying to sacrifice a health care bill in order to pass an amendment that would put discrimination in our state constitution.

If any group out there is looking for state-level Democrats to primary in 2010, please add Mertz and Huser to your list. I would imagine that a lot of Iowa Democrats would enthusiastically back progressive challengers to these two. Mertz represents a conservative area of northwest Iowa, but even if a "better Democrat" lost the general election, I believe we would be better off without Mertz in the House Democratic caucus. Huser didn't even have a Republican challenger in 2008, so this is a prime district for electing a better Democrat.

All Iowans represented by one of the 54 House Democrats who stood firm with Speaker Murphy should call or e-mail to say thank you. A few other House Democrats have indicated that they are personally uncomfortable with same-sex marriage, but they did the right thing today by not letting Republicans hijack debate on a health and human services bill.

Murphy released this statement:

"The latest political stunt by House Republicans this afternoon proves this is all about politics.  It's stunning that Republicans would choose to gut health care for our children, veterans, seniors and disabled Iowans to score political points.

Despite today's political posturing and attempts to circumvent rules agreed to by Republicans earlier this year, my goal is to keep our focus on helping middle class families struggling to make ends meet and balancing the state budget.

Iowans expect us to work together on the issues that unite us --good-paying jobs, affordable health care and a quality education."

In more good news, the Des Moines Register quoted Governor Chet Culver confirming that he opposes HJR 6:

"I think we have to be very respectful of the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. This court in a unanimous decision has stated that it is discriminatory to deny people rights that they're given under the current Constitution," [Culver] said.

Culver released a statement supporting the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on April 7, four days after the court announced its decision. Most other prominent Iowa Democrats reacted more quickly, but Culver told the Des Moines Register that he didn't want to make a "knee-jerk reaction":

"I think it's appropriate to take as much time as necessary, and in my case about four days, to thoroughly read the decision. ... It's 69 pages long. It involves a lot of complex legal arguments on both sides," he said.

Culver said he sat down with Attorney General Tom Miller on Monday to talk about the ruling. He had conversations with other "interested parties." He read many of the "thousands" of messages his office received.

Truth be told, I want to believe Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08's hunch about the reason for the delay:

Hopefully [...] this means they conducted a quickie poll and found little enthusiasm for amending the constitution.

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