A full eighteen months out from Iowa's 2010 gubernatorial race and gay marriage is already taking center stage in the race for the governor's office.

And while resentment towards the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in the Hawkeye State continues to simmer among social conservatives, lawmakers were still hopeful their acrimony would not spill into next year's race.

Those hopes were dashed Monday when likely GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats renewed his promise to issue an executive order that would end gay marriage in the state until a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage could be voted on.

Vander Plaats said Monday he would sign the order, even if it meant facing impeachment.

“I can't give the people the right to vote on this, but I think I can mobilize people like [Senate Majority Leader Mike] Gronstal and [House Speaker Pat] Murphy by saying no more same-sex marriages until you step up and make this law,” Vander Plaats told Christian radio host Steve Deace.

Unlike California's majority referendum process, altering the state constitution in Iowa is a lengthy and complicated process that requires legislative approval in two consecutive sessions followed by a popular vote.

Vander Plaats demanded Iowa Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, issue an executive order that bans gay marriage soon after the court overturned a ban in April to the surprise and delight of gay activists.

Culver, who is seeking reelection in 2010, has said he does not have the authority to overrule the state Supreme Court.

Democrats, Vander Plaats predicted, would attempt to remove him from office, after signing the order.

“I would like to have that debate, because then Pat Murphy has to go back to his people in Dubuque and tell them we're going to impeach Vander Plaats because he wants the legislature to do its job in the constitution and he also wants to give you the right to vote,” he said. “I don't think what would play very well.”

The issue has divided lawmakers, mostly along party lines.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, recently flipped on the issue of gay marriage, saying he would oppose an effort to define marriage as a heterosexual union in the Iowa constitution, while Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he supports a ban on gay marriage.