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Iowa Republican says effort to impeach justices won't fly

DES MOINES (Reuters) - The top Republican in Iowa's House of Representatives said on Friday he opposes an effort by members of his own party to impeach four state supreme court justices and does not expect the measure to advance in the legislature.

Five GOP legislators co-sponsored resolutions this week to unseat the justices, who angered conservatives in the state by helping strike down a 1998 state law denying married same-sex couples the same rights granted to other married couples.

But House Speaker Kraig Paulsen issued a statement on Friday saying the effort was unlikely to gain traction in the House -- and that he would oppose it if it did.

"While I agree with much of the reasoning behind the impeachment resolutions, I disagree with this remedy," Paulsen said. "I do not expect it to be debated on the floor of the House and if it is, I will vote no."

The Iowa legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act in 1998. Two years ago the state's highest court unanimously ruled the law was unconstitutional.

Iowa voters tossed three justices off the bench last November who joined the court's ruling. But four other justices who were part of that ruling remain on the court.

Representative Tom Shaw and four Republican colleagues who filed the resolutions seeking impeachment on Thursday said the four remaining justices overstepped their authority.

"Marriage is between one man and one woman and they just up and tried to change the definition of a word and you just can't do that," Shaw said. "Justices don't have the authority to change the meanings of words."

Shaw said the four justices should be impeached in order to "maintain the integrity" of the state's constitution.

House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday night had called on the House Republican leadership to "publicly condemn" the resolutions, calling the effort an "outrageous, extremist proposal."

(Reporting by Kay Henderson. Editing by James B. Kelleher and Peter Bohan)