A Civics Lesson

Two separate developments on the gay marriage front today, from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

First, New York’s Gov. David Paterson is planning a Thursday announcement, according to the usual informed sources, that he will be introducing a bill in the state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. First thing I’ve heard of him doing that actually makes sense.

And second, the Des Moines Register reports that a Republican candidate for governor of Iowa is campaigning on a promise to stop gay marriage rights by executive order. Same-sex marriage was made legal in Iowa as a result of the recent decision by Iowa’s Supreme Court that a state law defining marriage as exclusively heterosexual was unconstitutional:

A Republican candidate for governor vowed today to stop gay marriage if he’s elected, but several Statehouse officials say his proposed method would be illegal.

“If I have the opportunity to serve as your next governor,” Bob Vander Plaats told a crowd of about 350 people at a rally, “and if no leadership has been taken to that point, on my first day of office I will issue an executive order that puts a stay on same-sex marriages until the people of Iowa vote, and when we vote we can affirm and amend the Constitution.”

As the article points out, this would be illegal:

Several lawmakers and Phil Roeder, a spokesman for Gov. Chet Culver, said the governor doesn’t have that power.

“Governors in Iowa do not have the ability to prevent or overturn a decision of the Supreme Court through an executive order,” Roeder said. “It’s disappointing that some people, especially politicians, would try to mislead the public into thinking that governors do have such power.”

Vander Plaats said in a telephone interview he would try the executive order approach anyway – and thinks Culver should try it now.

“Who is to balance the courts?” he said. “Who says the courts get the final say?”

Ummm… the U.S. Constitution?

It’s a genuine shame this is necessary, but let’s go ahead and take a moment to remind our right-wing friends about a concept they should have learned in junior-high civics class: Governors can veto legislation passed by state legislatures; governors cannot veto rulings from state Supreme Courts. State officials can’t pick and choose, following court rulings they like, nullifying court rulings they don’t.

One Response to “A Civics Lesson”

  1. Steve says:

    Vander Plaats knows that even if he were to become governor, he wouldn’t have the power to do what he says he’ll do (which, to be clear, would be suspending the constitutional rights of his state’s citizens based on the possiblity that those rights will be removed from the constitution at some point in the future). Unfortunately, there are lots of uninformed people out there who aren’t interested in facts, logic or the law. They’ll vote for him because he’s telling them what they want to hear.

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