Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Iowa House Votes to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

The Iowa state House of Representatives voted Tuesday approving a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. The ban would strip gay and lesbian Iowans of the marriage rights they currently enjoy. Iowa is one of only five US states, and the District of Colombia, where same-sex couples have the right to marry.

The 62-37 vote on the bill, House Joint Resolution 6, was highly partisan. Three Democrats joined 59 Republicans in supporting the ban, while all 37 “no” votes were from Democrats. One Republican was absent. The vote followed three hours of debate, during which only two lawmakers spoke out against the bill.

State Rep. Rich Anderson (R-Clarinda) said that if the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage was allowed to stand, it would only be a matter of time before polygamy and even incest were legalized.

“If we remove the gender requirement for marriage, there is no rational basis to define the number,” he argued. “So we open up the possibility of the constitutional recognition of polygamous relationships. That’s a slippery slope. And I don’t know where the logic is to draw the line. We wouldn’t recognize incestuous relationships between two consenting adult brothers and sisters. That raises up within us disgust, and we can’t accept that. We draw lines. We define marriage.”

Dissenters asserted same-sex couples must have their civil rights protected by law.

“Here’s the funny thing about rights,” Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) said, “they’re not supposed to be voted on.” Leaving civil rights issues up to popular vote is absurd, critics argue, because the very reason civil rights laws are necessary is that the majority of the people may not be inclined to allow those rights to be enjoyed by historically oppressed minorities.

Some lawmakers pointed to Iowa’s proud history of progressivism. “Iowa is a special place,”  Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames) said before the vote. “We have been ahead of the nation many times when it comes to civil rights. Here we are again; we are ahead of much of the nation. I am proud of the role we play to lead our nation in civil rights.” Wessel-Kroeschell added: “In the 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia not only ended the ban on interracial marriage but declared that marriage is one of the basic civil rights.”

Carolyn Jenison, executive director of the gay rights group One Iowa, was quoted by the Iowa Independent as saying: “The Constitution is meant to protect the freedoms and liberties of all Iowans. It is inappropriate to use the political process to single out and deny a group of Iowans their constitutional protections.”

Perhaps the most impassioned argument against the ban came from Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old with two moms. He said, in part:

“Our family really isn’t so different from any other Iowa family. We go to church together, we eat dinner, we go on vacations… We have our hard times too, we get in fights… We just hope for equal and fair treatment from our government…

Being a student at the University of Iowa, the topic of same-sex marriage comes up quite frequently in classroom discussions… the question always comes down to ‘can gays even raise kids?’ I raise my hand and say ‘actually, I was raised by a gay couple and I’m doing pretty well. I scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. I’m an Eagle Scout. I own and operate my own small business. If I was your son, I believe I would make you very proud.

I’m not really so different from any of your children. My family really isn’t so different from yours…

You’re telling Iowans that some among you are second-class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love…

The sexual orientation of my parents has had no effect on the content of my character.”

The marriage ban measure now heads to the Iowa Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. If it somehow manages to pass there, it must be voted on again by both the House and Senate in 2013 before being placed on the ballot.

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One Comment

  1. GraceDecember 4, 2011 at 12:27 amReply

    They liken gay marriage to incest and polygamy? Where do these politicians get off?

    Ah, the USA: home of the greedy, land of the slave.

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