Gay marriage drama at statehouse

This morning Republicans (and two Democrats) in the legislature are attempting a sort of end-run to try to keep a resolution “alive” that eventually would set up a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Iowa.  A legislative deadline looms this Friday. Policy measures like this resolution must win approval from a House or Senate committee this week.  Policy proposals which fail to make it out of committee this week are no longer eligible for debate.  The deadline does not apply to bills that deal with money matters. 

Shortly before 9 a.m. in the Iowa Senate, a “discharge petition” signed by all 18 Republicans and Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, was presented to try to bring the resolution out of committee.  But 26 signatures are required on the document before a resolution (or a bill) can be brought out of committee and become eligible for debate in the full, 50-member senate, so that attempt with just 19 signatures failed.

Things are slightly more dramatic in the Iowa House.  There’s a House Rule which stipulates that 51 House members can vote to bring a bill out of committee, making it eligibl for House debate. The House convened at 9;22 a.m.  After a prayer and the Pledge, House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) invoked a “Call of the House.”  This means all 100 members are “compelled” to be inside the House chamber.  (It’s a move designed to force all 100 members to be there for a subsequent vote to try to bring the resolution out of committee.)

So, the doors to the chamber are “locked” and members are not allowed to leave.  At present, which would be 9:52 a.m., there are 98 House members present.  They can’t leave, although the House speaker told them they can use the restrooms which are in the back on the chamber and one lawmaker could be heard saying, “Thank God I got my Pepsi!” — so he’ll be caffeine loading, perhaps, as House officials try to track down the two absent lawmakers.

It’s now 10 o’clock and by my tally the two absent lawmakers are Representatives Helen Miller, a Democrat from Fort Dodge, and Rick Olson, a Democrat from Des Moines.  At 10:01 a.m., the House clerk announced Rick Olson was present. 

A few minutes later, Helen Miller arrived. At 10:05 a.m., the House started voting on the proposal to bring the bill out of committee.   The vote 45 “yes” and 54 “no.”  UPDATE: All 44 House Republicans plus Representative Dolores Mertz, a Democrat from Ottosen, voted yes. All 54 House Democrats present voted no. Representative Mark Kuhn, a Democrat from Charles City, had an excused absence today.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. […] Follow this link: Gay marriage drama at statehouse : […]