Monday, April 13, 2009

Anti-Same Sex Rally, Rants Tax Plan

More than 200 Iowans rallied in the rain at the Iowa Statehouse against the Iowa Supreme Court's recent ruling that permitted same sex marriage in the state. The conservative group, Everyday America, sponsored the gathering. During the rally, Bob Vander Plaats, a likely Republican candidate for governor in 2010, challenged Governor Chet Culver to issue an executive order that would stay the court's ruling. Vander Plaats wants Culver to delay implementation of same sex marriages until Iowans have a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriages. Vander Plaats told the crowd, "On my first day in office (if he is elected governor), I will issue an executive order that puts a stay on same sex marriages until the people of Iowa vote."

Vander Plaats also mentioned his mother told him his dying father's only regret last week was that same sex marriage is now permitted in the state. He said that's not what his father, who was a World War II veteran, fought for years ago.

Governor Chet Culver's office says he will not issue an executive order on the matter of same sex marriages. Culver's spokesman, Troy Price, issued a statement. It said, "Governors in Iowa do not have the ability to prevent or overturn a decision of the Supreme Court through an executive order. It's disappointing that some people, especially politicians who should know better, would try to mislead the public into thinking that Governors do have such power."

Drake University's Constitutional Law Center Director Mark Kende agreed that even if Culver wanted to issue that order, he "doesn't have that authority." Kende compared the matter to the fight in the 1960s when southern governors tried to stop segregation efforts. He said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against them.

The same sex marriage debate could also get infused into Iowa Democrats' efforts to overhaul the state's tax system. Democrats are working on a proposal that would eliminate federal tax deductibility. They say they would use the additional state revenue to lower the overall income tax rates of Iowans. The proposal would lower taxes on some Iowans and raise taxes on others. Monday afternoon, Christopher Rants, a Republican state representative from Sioux City (and possible GOP candidate for governor next year), offered an amendment that aims to lead to a debate on same sex marriage. Rants believes if lawmakers debate changes to Iowa's tax system, then they will have to debate the legal definition of "husband" and "wife". Rants said, "Sort of marry the issues together (tax changes and same sex marriage). If we're going to give a tax benefit to married husbands and wives that are filing their tax returns...I think we need to define what is a husband, what is a wife, what constitutes married persons for the purpose of the iowa code."

Iowa house Democrats had no immediate reaction to Rants' amendment Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, they had scheduled debate on federal deductibility changes for Tuesday afternoon. But aides say Speaker of the House Pat Murphy is out of town tending to a family matter. As of 7pm Monday, it was uncertain whether he would be in Des Moines to preside over debate on tax changes. Aides say it is possible debate could be delayed until later in the week. Iowans for Tax Relief has already announced it plans to bring members to the Iowa statehouse Tuesday to lobby lawmakbers to oppose the tax changes.

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