Bartz urges breaking the law
With Republican legislative efforts to attach gay marriage amendments as non-germane riders to must-pass legislation, opponents are now trying to stop marriage equality with civil disobedience. State Senator Merlin Bartz is urging county recorders to break the law they're sworn to uphold and encouraging an astroturf petition effort by the Iowa Family Policy Center. But one leading recorder says she expects her colleagues to follow the Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v. Brien and begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on Monday.
The petitions urge recorders "to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples on April 27th, 2009, and every day after, until such conflict between the Supreme Court’s opinion and the law (sic) is addressed by a VOTE OF THE PEOPLE OF IOWA."
A strongly worded letter last week from the state Department of Health, but drafted by the state Attorney General's office, says recorders must issue same-sex licenses on the same basis as opposite-sex licenses, or they will be in violation of their oath of office.
"I expect all 99 recorders to issue licenses and be completely professional, as always," says Johnson County Recorder Kim Painter.
"I really respect my colleagues in the Recorders' Association," Painter said. "Some of them are coming under very heavy fire. I have heard from Recorders who have been harrassed at their counters, literally threatened with hell-fire and damnation by clergy at their local legislative breakfasts, and other like encounters. Some of those taking the most flak fundamentally disagree with the ruling in Varnum. But all are ready to issue licenses on Monday, come, well, hell or high water. I'm really proud of them."
Johnson County, the most liberal in the state, seems like particularly unfertile soil for one of the petitions. "I anticipate no trouble, really," said Painter, one of the first out lesbian elected officials in the state when first elected in 1998. "Perhaps one of Bartz's petitions will make its way here, I'm not even sure about that."
"I'm coordinating with law enforcement to assure relative calm here as we conduct business on Monday," said Painter. She's heard of no planned protests in Iowa City, but noted that notorious picketer Rev. Fred Phelps claims to be coming to Polk County on Friday morning.