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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa: Safe Until 2014

Sometimes significant political news stories involve dogs that don’t bark. That’s just happened in Iowa, where Republicans in the legislature have failed to force a vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn the state Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Under Iowa’s constitution, amendments have to be enacted by two consecutive legislatures (which meet for two years), and then face ratification by voters. So barring some unforeseen development late in the current session, the earliest an amendment could be sent to voters would be in 2014.
Aside from the fact that this gives same-sex marriage a new lease on life, this non-barking dog also preserves the issue as a source of political controversy in Iowa for two more election cycles. But it also means that it won’t be directly on the ballot during the 2012 presidential contest.
Same-sex marriage has become a heavily partisan issue in Iowa, with virtually all Democratic officeholders supporting the Supreme Court decision and virtually all Republicans opposing it. But it’s also a bit of an intraparty issue for Republicans, since elected officials and candidates deemed insufficiently obsessed with efforts to overturn the court decision (e.g., former Gov. Terry Branstad, the favorite in this year’s GOP gubernatorial primary) have faced angry criticism from the Cultural Right. And the issue could spill over into the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses, where Iowa, as always, will have the first say, and where the Cultural Right (viz. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 victory) has always been very strong.

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