GOP County Parties Censure Ernst, Call For Miller-Meeks Primary Over Gay Marriage Vote

Miller-Meeks: AP Photo

Six Iowa Republican county parties have voted to censure Sen. Joni Ernst over her “yes” vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, while one of Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ home Republican county parties is openly recruiting for a primary challenger over her same vote.

“[H]omosexuality clearly violates the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, the source of our rights,” the Des Moines County Republicans wrote in their censures. “[T]he same sex ‘marriage’ is a ‘slippery slope’ that will undoubtedly lead to the recognition of polygamous and incestuous unions…”

Miller-Meeks has run a medical practice out of Des Moines County for years, but the local Republican activists are so furious over her vote, they announced in their censure that they would try to oust her in the next GOP primary.

“The Des Moines County Republican Party will attempt to recruit a primary challenger against Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks … who supports the principles in this resolution,” the county party resolved.

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Wright, Guthrie, Ida, Mahaska, Pocahontas, Van Buren and Des Moines counties have submitted letters to Ernst condemning her vote. The most common complaint is that her vote to legalize same-sex marriage conflicts with the Iowa Republican Party platform and, in some cases, the county party platforms.

[UPDATE: A previous version of this story showed a Facebook post from “Woodbury County Republicans” that shared a Sioux City pastor’s statement condemning Ernst and calling her “an enemy of true liberty” and “betrayer of Christ.” However, the actual, official Woodbury County Republican Party reached out to inform us that the page is not affiliated with the county party. The page does share information on local candidates, but isn’t the official county party.]

That state GOP platform explicitly opposes same-sex marriage, calling it a threat to stable and healthy civilization.

The Iowa Republican Party platform states, under the Liberty subhead:

  1. “We believe that traditional, two parent (one male (XY) and one female (XX)), marriage based families are the foundation to a stable, enduring, and healthy civilization. We encourage the repeal of any laws allowing any marriage that is not between one natural man and one natural woman.”

The first point under the subheading calls for the repeal of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the Iowa Civil Rights Code. The 12th denies the existence of transgender or nonbinary people.

Some county parties have similar language in their platforms.

Censure is a formal statement of disapproval that’s used as a reprimand to public figures for stepping out of line with a group’s standards or principles. There are no formal disciplinary measures or consequences.

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann previously said this year that county parties don’t have the ability to censure their elected officials. This was in response to Mahaska County censuring Miller-Meeks for her initial vote for the bill back in August.

The Respect for Marriage Act codifies same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law to protect it from potentially being overturned by the US Supreme Court the way abortion rights were. It passed the Senate 61-36 on Nov. 29. It passed the House 258-169 on Dec. 8.

The bill repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It says the federal government must recognize same-sex and interracial marriages, and states must recognize marriages performed in other states.

It does not require any states to perform same-sex or interracial marriages.

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When she voted for it in November, Ernst said in a statement: “After hearing directly from Iowans and closely reviewing the amended language, I believe this bill protects religious freedoms and will simply maintain the status quo in Iowa.”

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa in 2009 because of an Iowa Supreme Court decision.

The Senate added an amendment to the original Respect for Marriage Act which clarified that nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage.

Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne also voted in favor of the bill, while GOP Rep. Randy Feenstra voted against it.

Grassley is on record saying he doesn’t think the Respect for Marriage Act is necessary because the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage is legal in 2015’s Obergefell v Hodges.

“My vote against this bill is not about opposing the recognition of same-sex or interracial marriages; it’s about defending the religious liberty enshrined in our founding documents,” he said in November. “This legislation is simply unnecessary.”

So far, there hasn’t been a censure for Hinson, but right-wing voices are condemning the votes.


Nikoel Hytrek

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