DES MOINES — Same-sex marriage opponents, who stood by Monday while county courthouses began issuing licenses to gay couples, vowed to carry their fight back to the Statehouse and ballot booths in 2010.

Republican legislative leaders Rep. Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha and Sen. Paul McKinley of Chariton said their effort to launch a drive to amend Iowa’s Constitution to restore marriage as only between one man and one woman was “stopped cold by Democratic obstructionism” and Gov. Chet Culver’s lack of executive leadership.

They vowed to push the proposed constitutional amendment again next session when top Democrats can’t use a procedural dodge to thwart the issue but expect the real debate will come when the 2010 campaign hits full stride.

“Whether it be the pursuit of a constitutional amendment to give Iowans the right to vote on this issue; the establishment of residency requirements to obtain marriage licenses; or the appointment of future judges — none of these options are possible as long as Chet Culver remains governor and Democrats control the Iowa Legislature,” Paulsen, McKinley and Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn said in a joint statement.

“Democratic legislators who campaigned at home to protect marriage and then hid behind procedural votes in Des Moines to thwart the will of the people will have to answer for their hypocritical actions in 2010,” they added.

Joining Monday’s chorus of political opponents was Sioux City businessman and likely 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, who criticized Culver’s decision to “sit on the sidelines” after the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state law defining marriage as only between one man and one woman.

Monday’s scene at county courthouses on the day that gay-marriage became legal in Iowa was part of Culver’s “failed legacy,” said Vander Plaats, who had repeatedly called for Culver to use his executive power to issue an order putting the April 3 court ruling on hold before it took effect Monday.

“Chet Culver may not be listening to Iowans now, but I’m convinced he’s going to hear them loud and clear on Nov. 2, 2010, when they give him his pink slip and elect a governor who respects the will of the people.”

Culver has deflected Vander Plaats’ criticism, saying the GOP rival is suggesting he do something the Constitution does not give him the authority to do under governmental separation of powers.

“It’s basic government 101,” said Culver, a former high school government teacher. “I think it’s important that we respect the powers of the three branches, and I think if a candidate is serious about running for governor, they should know about the separation of powers.”

Larry Pope, a longtime Republican and retired Drake University law professor with expertise in constitutional law, said a governor has the “bully pulpit” but little power when it comes to a dispute like this.

“I’m a good loyal Republican and always have been, but right now the governor’s getting better legal advice,” Pope said. “There’s very limited role for the governor to play in this.

“Contrary to what talk radio’s been saying, there’s really no role for executive officials other than to carry out the decision of the court.”