Both Sides Make Final Pitch on Gay Marriage

Married couple Tammy Steinwandt, left, and Melanie Muth, of Solon, Iowa, speak during a news conference sponsored by a coalition of marriage equality supporters, Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Both sides in the gay marriage debate are making what is likely their final pitch on the issue as this year�s legislative session enters the final month. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Kara Kelly

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Supporters of an effort to put a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Iowa's statewide ballot pressed Tuesday for lawmakers to take up the issue before the legislative session ends, but the Senate's Democratic leader said he will block debate on the measure.

Bob Vander Plaats, a former gubernatorial candidate who led the campaign to oust three state Supreme Court judges after their decision to allow gay marriage in 2010, joined other gay marriage opponents at the Statehouse for a Tuesday news conference. They unveiled petitions, signed by about 20,000 people, demanding that lawmakers debate the resolution that would put the constitutional amendment to a vote.

The Republican-controlled House has approved the resolution, but it hasn't been brought up in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he will block debate on the measure during the final month of the session, which is scheduled to end in the middle of April.

"I am not going to put discrimination into the state's constitution," Gronstal said.

Brian Brown, head of the National Association of Marriage, joined Vander Plaats on Tuesday and said a majority of states have held statewide votes on defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Gay marriage backers also gathered at the Statehouse on Tuesday to counter the arguments. Danny Homan, head of the largest union representing state workers, said he'll continue to push the issue even if it isn't taken up by the Senate this session.

"We must work together to fight any attacks on equality," he said.

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