The rules and gay marriage

There’re all in their places, but I’m not so sure about the bright, shining faces.  The Iowa Senate convened shortly after 7 a.m. today.  A rules fight is a brewin’ here and at the center of it is a push to get a senate vote on a resolution calling for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnershipsin Iowa. 

After a silent prayer for the Iowa troops who’re on active duty and recitation of the Pledge, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal spoke, asking for unanimous consent to call up a piece of legislation. 

Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Indianola) asked for the floor, saying: “I ask unanimous consent to call up Senate Joint Resolution 8.”

A bunch of senators went to the “well” of the senate, which is at the center of the room.  It’s where Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) sits.  He functions as the parliamentarian.

Kibbie said since Senate Resolution 2 had already been called up for debate by Gronstal, Sorenson’s motion was out of order.

Sorenson responded. “I call that into question,” he said, employing Senate Rule 52 to “ssk the body to overrule the ruling from the chair.”

There was a parade of senators to Kibbie’s desk to discuss the matter off mic (so we don’t know what is being said).

“This is going to be a circus,” Senator Jack Hatch said as he sat at his desk near the press bench. 

Kibbie spoke to the senate, via the sound system, a few moments later, saying he ws taking a little time for a reason. “This is the first time I’ve had to call a vote on a ruling of the chair,” Kibbie said, “and that’s what we’re a gonna do.”

Sorenson: “I believe it’s a debatable motion.”

Kibbie: “Yes it is.”

Gronstal, at about 7:14 a.m., was recognized to speak.  “There’s been much misinformation about what is in the rules.  We don’t override rulings of the chair,” Gronstal said to start.  Gronstal gave a little history, saying “for a decade, we couldn’t get the minimum wage dealt with in this chamber, but we never voted to overrule the ruling of the chair.”

Gronstal said if the senate can override Kibbie’s ruling this morning, there is no such thing as a committee chair because at any point this body on any issue, whether it’s the iminimum wage or a constitutional amendment.”

He suggested the power of committee chairs would be diminished by the matter, too.

“I even understand that people may characterize this as a vote on the constitutional amendment.  It is not.  I understand that people can lie and say it is,” Gronstal said.

Senator Merlin Bartz (R-Grafton) yelled from his desk, saying Gronstal had violated Senate Rule 9, which says senators are not to  imply a colleague has improper motives.

Kibbie said Bartz’s “point is well taken” and Gronstal replied. “I did not say anything about the motives of the senator.  I said people can.  There’s a good deal of misinformation,” Gronstal said, mentioning email messages being sent out by The FAMiLY Leader, a group which opposes gay marriage.

“This is not a vote on the constitutional amendment on gay marriage,” Gronstal said.

Senator Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) spoke next, saying he’s “only been here for two and a half weeks.”  He quoted the state constitution, saying there was nothing in there about committees.  Chelgren criticized Gronstal for blocking a vote on the constitutional amendment about gay marriage for the past couple of years: “The very act of denying us that is unconstitutional.”

Senator Bartz spoke next. “Extraordinary times deserve extraordinary measures,” he said. “And the real issue we’re standing up here is not because we wish to somehow change the traditions of the senate.”

Sorenson spoke. “I didn’t come over to try and disrupt the process. I didn’t come over here to try to toss tradition out the window and I understand that some of the people doesn’t realize this is a vote for marriage. but the fact of the matter is the people of Iowa have been denied a vote on marriage…We have the opportunity right now to vote on the marriage amendment right now.”

At 7:34 a.m. the voting began on Sorenson’s motion to override the ruling of the chair (senate president).  At 7:35 a.m. the vote was over, failing on a 26-24 party line vote.

The senate then began debate on the senate rules of operation. Gronstal said this is a “pretty arcane discussion” and he asked Bartz to “yield” which in the senate sort of means the two have a conversation over the senate sound system.  Gronstal read something Bartz was quoted as saying in The Mason City Globe Gazette about changing the traditions of the senate, a quote made before the session started.

Bartz said the quote was accurate.  Gronstal then said that proved Republicans, not Democrats were first to start talking about changing the traditions of the senate. Gronstal spoke a few moments more, then said: “It’s time for us to get on about passing (these rules).”

Senate Republicans decided they wanted to caucuses, which means they went into a closed-door meeting and senate activity is suspended.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RadioIowa and RadioIowa, KGLO News. KGLO News said: The Iowa Senate at this hour is debating their rules of business and how they'll deal with the gay marriage issue…. […]

  2. Iowa State Capitol News – Weekend Recap…