Friday, July 10, 2015

Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Two Controversial Decisions, Iowa Constitutional Convention and 2015

Constitutional Convention

      In Iowa laws are proposed, adopted, adapted and interpreted a few different ways. One is at the legislative and executive level. The house and senate discuss, debate and decide whether or not to pass bills through to the next level for the governor to sign into law or veto. Even if the governor veto's a proposed law passed through by the house and senate the house and senate can still override his veto. The legislative branch of Iowa's government meets annually during the Iowa Legislative session unless they are called into special session during other times of the year. When they decide and pass proposed bills onto the governor's office to be signed the new laws go into effect and the Iowa Constitution is adapted, modified and changed accordingly.

     In addition to the legislative and executive branches of government adopting and passing laws, laws can also be changed by constitutional convention. Since 1970 the decision to call a state constitutional convention can only be voted on by the voting public of Iowa. It is a ballot item every ten years. If it is not voted in favor of and there are more no votes than yes it cannot be brought up decided on for another ten years. If voted in favor a group of delegates to attend the convention are voted for. The delegates do not have to be elected officials and can be lay people who would like to attend as a delegate. Once the convention is convened the delegates can decide on which changes to Iowa state law they wish to make. Once these laws are changed the Iowa Supreme Court has to uphold the constitution as it is written. They are required to follow it based on their logical and reasonable interpretation.

      Another way laws are interpreted is at the judicial branch. The Iowa Supreme Court which is an appellate court has the power to reasonably and logically interpret the Iowa State Constitution based on how it is written and changed by the legislative and executive branches of government. The do not have the power or authority to debate, discuss and decide whether or not to pass proposed laws or bills from their branch of government onto the executive branch for the governor to sign into law or veto, nor does the Iowa Supreme Court have the power or authority to override the governor's veto. They do have the power and authority to make rulings based on the way the Iowa State Constitution is written.

      Prior to the case of Varnum v. Brien was presented before the Iowa Supreme Court there was nothing in the state constitution stating that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. When the whole issue of same sex marriage started in 2003 there were no proposed bills or files in the Iowa House or Senate to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Despite a request by Republican leaders and law makers for voters to vote in favor of the constitutional convention in Iowa in 2010 when it last came up for a vote on the ballot it was voted down. After the supreme court made their decision in 2009 on Varnum v. Brien the constitutional convention was voted down. 

2015

      It was not until early 2015 when the issue of defining marriage was proposed in the Iowa House, almost 6 years after the Iowa Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. In June of 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality for the entire country. As a result same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, including states that have language in their state constitution's defining marriage as only being between a man and a woman. This too was met with resistance. Some conservative federal law makers proposed a bill that would have banned federal courts from even hearing cases on same sex marriage.

References:














To Go Free A Treasury of Iowa's Legal Heritage, Richard Lord Acton, Patricia Nassif Acton, Iowa State University Press/Ames, 1995:





























































Previous articles in the series:
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Introduction
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, History and Introduction
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1619
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1846
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1861
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1863
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1864
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1865
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1865 to 1990
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1990's
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 1990 to Present
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, Artifacts, Book and CD
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 2002
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, Celebrations and Photos
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 2003 to 2004
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 2009 to 2010
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, 2012 to 2015
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Juneteenth, Flags
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, Introduction
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, Iowa Civil Rights Timeline
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1839
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1868
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1869
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1873
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1884
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1925
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1905 to 1940
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1930
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1948
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1949
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1965
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1967
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1968
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1970
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1972
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1979
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1980
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 1990
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 2007
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, 2009
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Working Toward Equality, Resolving Conflicts/The Work Continues
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Two Controversial Decisions, Thesis and a Brief History of the Iowa Territory
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Two controversial Decisions, The Story of Ralph Montgomery
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: The Story of David Rorer
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Two Controversial Decisions, Other Progressive Decisions made in the State of Iowa
Freedom and Civil Rights in Iowa: Two Controversial Decisions, Marriage Equality in Iowa