Rep. Greg Heartsill recently received criticism for introducing an amendment to a budget bill that would reduce pay for the four remaining Iowa Supreme Court Justices who voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2009. The amendment was withdrawn, because Heartsill said it was “symbolic.”
Heartsill explained that he, with fellow Representatives Dwayne Alons, Tom Shaw, Larry Sheets and Ted Gassman were trying to remind the public that the Legislature makes law, not the Judicial Branch. He added that the Supreme Court is not the final arbiter of law and that the Iowa Constitution calls for the Legislature to be the most powerful because it is closest and most accountable to the people.
The people of Iowa are supposed to hold the greatest power in state government. All three branches, Legislative, Executive and Judicial, are accountable to the people.
Heartsill said the Representatives proposed the amendment because, since the same-sex marriage case was decided, the Legislature has not acted. Attempts have been made by the House to include a Constitutional amendment defining marriage in the State. This effort has been blocked in the Senate.
The reason this was proposed is because the two branches of government disagree, and the people should be allowed to directly weigh in on the decision, he added. Because the Legislature has not passed any laws regarding marriage since the decision, the law defining marriage in the state reads, “Only a marriage between a male and a female is valid.” (Iowa Code 595.2)
“The Iowa law is still one man, one woman,” Heartsill said. He said regardless of one’s opinion of same-sex marriage, the Legislature needs to “clean” the code and strike this verbiage if this is going to be accepted as law. This has not happened.
“No one wants to touch it,” Heartsill said.
When asked why the Representatives wanted to punish the Justices, when legislators have failed to act, he reiterated the fact that the move was symbolic, to remind the public about judicial overreach. The state government is set up to have a system of checks and balances, and they believe the court stepped outside of its jurisdiction and started legislating.