So... anyway... this is a column by Jennifer Jacobs in the Des Moines Register dealing with the aftermath of the state court decision finding a state constitutional law right to same-sex marriage. Iowa voters have the power to call for a constitutional convention, where various constitutional amendments would be proposed and, if adopted, would be submitted, separately, to the voters for ratification.
A constitutional convention is a heady thought for Iowans who see that as a possible way to put the brakes on gay marriage in Iowa.There hasn't been a constitutional convention in Iowa since 1857. What would it be like today to put everything up for grabs?
“I’m inclined to hope they succeed, if that’s their strategy,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has saluted Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. “There’s a lot of good, progressive issues that we could pursue: a woman’s right to choose, guaranteed health care for all Iowa citizens, workers’ rights — so if there are people that want to help us get to a constitutional convention, that’s kind of my dream world.”...
Anything and everything – conservative issues, liberal issues – could eventually come to pass after such a convention, Iowa lawmakers and constitutional scholars pointed out.
“It’s truly a wild card — or a trump card, depending on how you look at it,” said Sen. Merlin Bartz, R-Grafton.
Drake Law School professor Mark Kende said: “Politically, Iowa has moved a little bit left. One concern might be if you’re on the right and you want to get rid of the gay marriage decision, but the state is moving left, what are you opening up? On the other hand, there’s a tradition of more effective campaigns on the right. Even if you’re fewer in number, the right can be more passionate and vocal and organized.”
Conventions were more popular early in the nation’s history, said Todd Pettys, a law professor at the University of Iowa.You may think you'll get the one thing you want, but there will be fights over other things, and who knows where the people will end up when they are asked to inscribe all sorts of new rights into the state's highest law? Do you think the conservative arguments — for cutting out rights that the state courts have found — will do better than the liberal arguments — for giving the courts new texts to expound?
“We’re a lot more cautious about it now,” Pettys said. “People say, 'Who knows what these people are going to cook up and what if it catches fire briefly and we sort of drive ourselves off a cliff?’”
It would be fascinating to watch one state's people struggling to decide what they want in their constitution. Will they understand that the question is how much power they want for their courts and how much they want to keep for their own democratic choice? You don't get to vote on the constitution too often. It's a democratic choice to deprive yourself of democratic choice — if you make new rights — or to get it back — if you withdraw rights.
By the way, how would you like a national constitutional convention?