Same-sex marriage will not be an issue in next year’s legislative
session, said the highest-ranking Democrats from both chambers of the
“Our goal is, hopefully for a long time, to do nothing on this
issue,” Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, said. “To let people
know that on April 3 there was a ruling, and on April 27 there were a
lot of people who said the end of the world was coming. Well, it’s a
month later, and the sun is still shining, the grass is still green and
people are enjoying their lives and living in more dignity because of
Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs,
spoke Thursday night at a reception in their honor hosted by One Iowa,
the state’s largest gay rights organization. The day the Iowa Supreme
Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, Gronstal and
Murphy issued a joint statement praising the decision
and closed the door on legislative action to overturn it. Over the
course of the session’s final weeks, both men repeatedly beat back
attempts to push through a constitutional amendment overturning the
Also speaking at the event was former Democratic National Committee
chair Howard Dean, who, as governor of Vermont, signed the country’s
first civil unions bill into law nearly ten years ago. Dean applauded
Gronstal and Murphy for their efforts.
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“The reason I am proud of them is that they have done something that
is not easy to do,” Dean said. “This is an incredibly emotional issue;
I don’t have to tell you what the backlash is. But people in politics
who have to face voters, this is the tough thing to stand up for. When
people take risks like this on your behalf, you have got to support
The summer after the Vermont civil unions bill was signed, Dean said
the rhetoric became so heated he wore a bulletproof vest most of the
time. Flash forward to last month and Vermont’s legislature was able to
overwhelmingly pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. That shows how
much opinion can change over time.
“Once somebody stands up and says who they are, it’s impossible to
discriminate against them,” he said. “Most decent human beings can say
terrible things about somebody they don’t know anything about. They
can’t say those things about friends and neighbors.”
Despite the praise, Gronstal said he didn’t stand up for same-sex marriage in order to win support.
“We do have to face the voters, but we also have to face ourselves
every morning,” he said. “We have to be able to look ourselves in the
mirror every day. And by the way, we didn’t do this for the GLBT
community. We did this for everybody.”
The goal now, Murphy said, is to make sure the work doesn’t stop and
groups like One Iowa continue to fight to elect “open-minded people who
are willing to protect the rights of the people of this state.”
Dean agreed, saying if Iowa fails, the entire gay rights movement could fail.
“We have to make sure they get re-elected,” he said. “If they lose,
this sets back the movement. People around the country will say: ‘Look
what they did in Iowa, and look at the price Democrats had to pay.’ So
it makes a big difference.”