House committee advances referendum on marriage


By Barb Arland-Fye

A referendum on marriage is back on the burner in the Iowa Legislature. On Jan. 24, the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure calling for a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would limit the legal definition of marriage to a union between one man and one woman. A public hearing on the issue and then floor debate in the House is expected next week, said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference. If the measure passes in the full House, it will go to the Senate.

HJR 6, “is part of a Republican response to the Varnum v Brien ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court,” Iowa Legislative News Service reported Jan. 24. “Rep. (Dwayne) Alons said that the decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that allowed gay couples to marry was not appropriate. He said that the decision about gay marriage shouldn’t be made by the Court or by legislators but by giving voters a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment.”

Supporters of the Iowa Supreme Court decision said that it had extended important legal rights to gay couples, Iowa Legislative News Service noted.

The Iowa Catholic Conference favors an amendment to the Iowa Constitution “because of what we stand for, not against,” Chapman said.


In April 2009, Iowa Catholic bishops updated their statement on an Iowa Constitutional Amendment Regarding Marriage. In part, the bishops said: “Marriage is a basic human and social institution. Though it is regulated by civil laws and Church laws, it did not originate from either the Church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither Church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.

“Marriage, whose nature and purposes are established by God, can only be the union of a man and a woman and must remain such in law. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children.”

The bishops were responding to the April 3, 2009, decision in which the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Polk County District Court allowing gay and lesbian couples full access to the institution of civil marriage.

Because of this decision, the Iowa bishops said, “we affirm that it is important to work towards the passage of an amendment to Iowa’s Constitution which would define marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

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