Ahead of tonight’s volunteer call with county chairs and co-chairs, Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann sent an email with the subject “A Message From Senator Ernst” to various individuals who will likely be on the call tonight.
Kaufmann, who said earlier this year county central committees have no power to express their disapproval of an elected Republican by censuring them, said he has been getting messages from chairs, executive committee members and activists from “all across the state” regarding Ernst’s support for the (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act.
“After hearing many concerns, I reached out to Sen. Ernst to make sure your voices and concerns were being heard,” Kaufmann wrote. “Senator Ernst has asked me to provide you with this letter explaining her vote.”
Kaufmann said it is his “duty” to make sure their voice as “the grassroots” is heard.
Ernst’s letter to the county committees said she remains “confident” in her vote.
“I understand that many of you disagree with the bill and my support of it,” Ernst wrote. “I write not to change your mind but to explain my reasons.”
Ernst said her decision to vote for the bill wasn’t “taken lightly” and required a “thorough review” of what it does and doesn’t do.
Ernst said she gave thoughtful consideration regarding the protection of religious liberty, which has been cited by Sen. Chuck Grassley as why he voted against the bill — saying the religious liberty protections supposedly provided in the bill are inadequate.
Ernst said the bill doesn’t provide a federal right for same-sex marriage, doesn’t require religious institutions to recognize same-sex marriage and doesn’t authorize or recognize polygamous marriages.
She said it maintains the status quo in Iowa, contains new and explicit protections for non-profit religious organizations and only applies to government actors.
None of this actually addresses why Ernst has been censured by at least five GOP central committees already. All five cited the Republican Party of Iowa platform’s portion that says this:
“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 (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act. It also forces one state to recognize whatever another state calls a “marriage.” And leading family advocacy groups and religious organizations who are conservative and have been the most vocal opponents of the bill Ernst supported.
While Ernst is asking Iowans to trust colleagues like Susan Collins, Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski with their religious liberty, Sen. Chuck Grassley has said the bill puts people “with certain sincere religious beliefs at greater legal risk without also providing sufficient opportunities for them to defend themselves.”
“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. This legislation is simply unnecessary. No one seriously thinks Obergefell is going to be overturned so we don’t need legislation. I’ve heard from multitudes of Iowans who are fearful of freedom of religion lawsuits,” Grassley said.