Gov. Reynolds says Iowans ‘should probably’ get to vote on same-sex marriage, but her office says she doesn’t mean it

Gov. Kim Reynolds — photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa

On Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said “from the very beginning” her position on same-sex marriage has been “it probably should go to a vote of the people and they should weigh in.” Later that afternoon, the governor’s spokesperson said the governor doesn’t believe what she said she believes, and that Reynolds accepts the legality of same-sex marriage as “settled.”

Reynolds’ statement came during her weekly press conference, which was held this week in Pella to highlight a program to promote apprenticeships for high school students, when she was asked about two planks in the Iowa Republican Party Platform calling for the elimination of same-sex marriage.

The “Life” section of the platform, adopted in 2016, includes:

1. We support an amendment to both the U.S. and the Iowa Constitutions defining and supporting the honored institution of marriage as the legal union between one natural man and one natural woman.

2. We encourage the repeal of any laws allowing any marriage that is not between one natural man and one natural woman.

During the press conference at the Career Academy of Pella, a reporter pointed out that Iowa Republicans are expected to keep these planks in their platforms, even though a 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling and a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling established the right of same-sex couple to marry. He asked Reynolds what her position on these planks is and what her position on same-sex marriage is. Reynolds’ long, rambling reply didn’t answer either question.

She started by talking about the party platform without taking a stand on it.

Well, first of all, the platform is a grassroots document that Republicans all across the state come together and work on. And it’s not something that, I mean, so it’s a guidelines of what the grassroots Republicans kind of look to for the state. But it’s not something that every single candidate has to abide by. Or it is a kind of an overarching goal of what the party is working on.

Reynolds continued her answer by pivoting to a combination of familiar talking points, irrelevant to the questions.

So what I’m going to be focused on, Bill [the reporter], and what I’m going to be talking about is really continuing to move this state forward, to look for opportunities for Iowans in every single corner of this state, to make sure that we’re helping young people see that there multiple career pathways to a great job and a great opportunity in this state. We’re going to talk about reducing taxes and we’re continuing to create an environment where job creators and businesses like Vermeer [a company representative was at the press conference] will feel confident in investing and continuing to grow in the state of Iowa.

The governor went on, working in a reference to her grandchildren, as she did during a November press conference while she was avoiding answering a question about why she called Iowa liberals “unhinged.”

And I think that’s what really — and when you talk to Iowans, and you travel the state, what they’re looking for, they’re concerned about their children having the same opportunities that they had when they were growing up in Iowa. Kevin and I have nine grandchildren — soon to have 10 — and I want to make sure that they, like parents all across the state, that they have the same opportunities that we did. No guarantees, but the same opportunity to succeed and be successful, to have a great career where they can take care of themselves and make a difference. And that’s what I’m focused on.

Pressed to answer the question, Reynolds replied, “I think it’s settled,” but didn’t stop there.

First, she repeated the talking points she’d just used to deflect the questions.

Bill, I told you what I’m going to focus on and that’s what I’m focused on. That’s been my message from the Condition of State and moving forward to make sure that kids have every single opportunity to be successful, that parents can take of their children and that’s what I’m focused on.

Next question.

Unfortunately for Reynolds, the next question was “Is it fair to say you consider [same-sex marriage] to be a settled matter now?”

I think that if it goes to the voters, I’ve, [sic] people have traditional views on what they believe marriage consists of. And they have every right to have that. But it was decided by the courts. And I’ve said, from the very beginning that my position has been it probably should go to a vote of the people and they should weigh in, and then we would stop this back and forth. But that I am focused on continuing to move Iowa forward, providing opportunities for Iowans and making sure that we continue to grow as a state.

Reynolds was able to move on to other topics after this.

In 2014, when Reynolds was running as Gov. Terry Branstad’s lieutenant governor, Branstad supported amending the state constitution to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Branstad did not change his position, but said a state amendment would not be effective unless the U.S. Constitution was also amended. This position is reflected in the party platform.

After it was reported that Reynolds had said she believed the rights of same-sex couples “should probably” be put up for a vote, the governor’s spokesperson Brenna Smith explained Reynolds no longer believes what she said she believed. “The governor believes that this issue is settled,” Smith said.

Smith’s statement, combined with the garbled nature of Reynolds press conference answers, was enough for the Des Moines Register to run a story with the headline: “Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says same-sex marriage issue settled; doesn’t have to abide by GOP platform.”

On Twitter, however, Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson pointed out that’s not what Reynolds said.

Iowa Republicans will hold their party convention on Saturday, June 16. During the convention, they will vote on a new platform

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