Today’s gay marriage drama

At 8:30 a.m., about 300 opponents of gay marriage gathered for a rally on the west steps of the statehouse this morning.  Many were wearing red, including the two rally leaders — Reverend Keith Ratliff and Iowa Family Policy Center executive director Chuck Hurley. Shortly after 9 o'clock, the group filed into the statehouse, through the metal detectors at the doorways, before trekking up to the third floor where they sat in the House balcony. [More photos from protest]

At 8:25 a.m. a few dozen supporters of gay marriage gathered on the south steps, donned t-shirts with a big dot (one dot to symbolize the One Iowa campaign) and went into the statehouse to make their presence known.

The House convened at 9:15 a.m.  After a prayer and the pledge were said, Representative Rod Roberts introduced his wife Trish to the House.  Everyone applauded.  Another representative introduced friends who were sitting in the House balcony.  Everyone applauded.  Representative Jodi Tymeson thanked everyone who contributed to a food drive. Everyone applauded.  Representative Mike May introduced his 91-year-old father. "Those on the other side of the aisle may gasp, because I have good genes," May, a Republican told his colleagues, suggesting he has many more years in which to serve in the legislature.

At this point, House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha exercised House Rule 77.  It means all members of the House are required to stay in the House (in some instances, it means those who are NOT there must be rounded up by troopers).

At 9:34 a.m. Paulsen made another motion to try to pull a resolution out of the House State Government Committee so the entire House could vote on it.  The resolution calls for a statewide vote on a proposed amendment to the state's constitution which would ban gay marriage.  At 9:43 a.m., House leaders were still meeting in "the well" of the House — it's the area where the House Speaker sits on a raised platform, overlooking the work station for the Chief Clerk of the House where the computer that runs the voting machine is situated.

UPDATE:  At about 9:45 a.m., Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) walked into the House and went to the "well" area.  The conversations in that area are not broadcast over the sound system, so we really don't know what they're saying,.

UPDATE II:  At 10:04 a.m. House Speaker Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) issued a ruling, declaring both Paulsen's motion to pull the bill out of committee and Paulsen's "call of the House" out of order.  The anti-gay marriage folks in the galleries started chanting:  "Let us vote.  Let us vote." It's now 10:15 a.m. and as I interviewed anti-gay marriage people streaming out of the balconies, three of them refused to give me their names.

UPDATE III: Here is the Radio Iowa story.  Click on that link to listen to the 26 minute long rally gay marriage opponents held this morning and the minute's worth of advice a "One Iowa" organizer delivered to gay marriage supporters.

UPDATE IV:  Here is the text released by House Speaker Pat Murphy's office, explaining his ruling.

Out of Order Ruling for HJR 6
Office of the Speaker

House Joint Resolution 6 proposes an amendment to the state Constitution specifying that marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state.

It was introduced on March 13, 2009 and was referred to the State Government Committee. According to Joint Rule 20 (the funnel), March 13 was the last date that a House bill or joint resolution could be reported out of committee in order to be placed on the House calendar and remain eligible for  consideration. The House was in session on March 13 only to read in newly introduced bills, including HJR 6. The State Government Committee was not scheduled to meet that day. Consequently, because it was filed so late in the session, HJR 6 could not have been reported out of committee in order to be placed on the calendar and thus was never eligible to be considered this year.

Still, House Rule 60 permits a bill or joint resolution to be withdrawn from committee and placed on the regular calendar by a vote of at least 51 House members. The bill or joint resolution must have been in committee for 18 legislative days following notation of the referral to committee in the House Journal. The notation of referral of HJR 6 appeared in the March 13 Journal. Since a “legislative day” is defined as one when the House meets in session, the first day that HJR 6 would be eligible to be withdrawn from
committee would be April 9.

The question is whether a House Rule 60 permits withdrawal of a bill from committee after the deadline set by Joint Rule 20 for placing bills on the House calendar. It is the decision of the chair that withdrawing a bill from committee amounts to a “reporting out of a standing committee” for purposes of Joint Rule 20. Consequently, House Rule 60 must be invoked prior to the deadline imposed by Joint Rule 20. Therefore, the motion to withdraw HJR 6 is out of order.

If the chair were to rule otherwise, the House rule allowing the body to withdraw a bill from committee and place it on the calendar could be used to circumvent the deadline imposed in the joint rule. Using the withdrawal motion, the House could continue to bring bills out of committee long after the deadline set in joint rules without suspending the joint rules.

There have been two instances in the past two years where a legislator has used Rule 60 to attempt to withdraw bills from committee. In both cases (once in 2007 and once in 2008) the motion to withdraw was made in the days leading up to the deadline referenced in Joint Rule 20.

The procedure for passage of a constitutional amendment requires approval by two separate General Assemblies. Thus, whether HJR 6 is approved this year or next year is inconsequential, since it must ultimately be approved a second time in either 2011 or 2012.

UPDATE V:  At about 3 p.m. during House debate of a budget bill Rep. Christopher Rants (R-Sioux City) tried another parliamentary move to try to force legislative action that would pave the way for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  As Rants and top House leaders conferred privately in the "well" of the House, Republican legislators and gay marriage opponents seated in the House gallery all stood.  About 45 minutes later, the House voted 54-44 to reject Rants' bid to suspend House rules. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Chad Harris says

    No names? They know their position is shameful and history will judge them the way is has judged those who stood outside Little Rock High School trying to bar admission to black students.

  2. mattachine says

    Churches are unaffected by the Iowa Supreme Court ruling but this doesn’t satisfy theocrats; they want to dictate everybody’s beliefs. State and federal DOMAs are all discriminatory and will fall under legal scrutiny; only Mob Rule at political and/or religious levels can prop up these atavistic doctrines.
    German anti-fascist Martin Niemoller:
    “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
    And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
    Matthew Shepard’s torture and murder have prompted federal hate-crimes legislative attempts every year since 1998; to date, all have failed. Gay people have always had to fight for our LIVES. Marriage is a luxury but it is essential to full equality; thank you Iowa legislators for denying Mob Rule in a Representative Democracy.