As gay and lesbian couples anticipate Monday's start of gay marriage in Iowa, social conservatives and some Republican lawmakers continue to attempt to block it from starting.

One Republican lawmaker's bluff and bluster is being challenged and a social conservative group says it will legally back up opponents of the decision.

Yesterday, Ed Fallon, a former legislator from Des Moines, filed a formal ethics complaint against Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton who has urged county recorders to defy the state Supreme Court's April 3 decision that legalized gay marriage, reports the Des Moines Register.

Fallon claims Bartz has violated his oath of office by urging county recorders to break the law.

“It's really important that state lawmakers respect their oath of office and we have really serious questions about whether that's happening in this case,” he said.

On Tuesday, Bartz attempted to give shelter to county recorders by introducing an amendment that would allow county recorders who objected to gay marriage to refuse to issue a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples on “conscientious” grounds. Senate leaders ruled the issue out of order and it was not debated.

Bartz is also supporting a petition drive by the Iowa Family Policy Center, the state's primary anti-gay marriage group, that urges country recorders to ignore the court's ruling.

Fallon's complaint questions if Republican legislative staffers were used to develop a website dedicated to promoting the petition.

State Attorney General Tom Miller has repeatedly warned country recorders that they cannot refuse to issue a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples. A position Bartz criticized in a press release titled Bartz To AG: Stop The Hypocrisy.

“Tom Miller’s silence on this issue of historic magnitude [gay marriage] prior to the Supreme Court ruling is deafening. He has no right to advise county recorders to violate their conscience, given the fact that he has evidently selectively chosen to utilize his,” Bartz said.

The Focus on the Family-related Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) says it will defend free of charge any county recorder wishing to deny gay couples a marriage license. The Christian conservative group claims Iowa law protects citizens from being forced to “violate his or her conscience.”

The Iowa Family Policy Center forwarded the ADF's offer in an email to all of Iowa's 99 county recorders.

“Government employees who believe in marriage as the union of one man and one woman should not be penalized for abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Doug Napier.

How many gay and lesbian couples seeking a marriage license will be turned away on Monday by “conscientious” objectors remains to be seen, but the threat of denial is a certain rocky start to gay marriage in Iowa.

Meanwhile, a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2010, Bob Vander Plaats, has demanded Governor Chet Culver stop gay marriage by issuing an executive order and has promised if elected he will end gay marriage in Iowa.