Good news for marriage equality in Iowa

It was overshadowed by competitive races for governor and other statewide offices, but a critical Democratic primary contest in Iowa House district 66 produced a big victory for marriage equality advocates yesterday. Elder Clair Rudison, a socially conservative pastor, challenged two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad (a longtime community activist who is usually known as "Ako"). Rudison had the backing of the right-wing Iowa Family Policy Center. He sent out at least five direct-mail pieces attacking Ako's record, two of which mentioned gay marriage. I posted the images at Bleeding Heartland. One piece said marriage is a "building block of our community," noting that Clair Rudison wants to "let the people vote" while Ako Abdul-Samad "has consistently voted against allowing the Iowa House to bring this matter to the people."

Rudison's direct mail implied that "a majority of Iowans" oppose Ako's stance on marriage equality, but the latest Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV suggests a majority favor same-sex marriage rights. Iowa House district 66 contains some of the most gay-friendly neighborhoods in Des Moines (Drake area, Sherman Hill, "East Village"), so it's far-fetched to portray Ako as out of step with his constituents. Rudison made other ridiculous charges too, like accusing Ako of facilitating racial profiling because he voted for a law to ban texting while driving.

Most Iowa politics-watchers were confident Ako would win this primary, but in a low-turnout environment anything can happen, so I was relieved to see that Ako won 75 percent of the vote yesterday. The result is important because the only Iowa House Democrat who has consistently worked with Republicans to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote is retiring this year. If Rudison had won the primary, Republicans would be able to continue to claim bipartisan support for their battle against equality and reproductive rights.

That Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV should be a warning to Republicans who think bashing gay marriage will be their winning ticket in November. About 53 percent of respondents said they favored marriage rights for same-sex couples, while only 41 percent opposed them. Support for equality is stronger among women (57-36) than among men (49-46). The same poll showed independents supporting same-sex marriage rights by 58-31, closer to the Democratic numbers of 81-17 than to the Republican respondents, who oppose marriage equality by 83-14.

The latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll by Selzer and Co asked likely Republican primary voters several questions about gay marriage. While 77 percent of them agreed that "Iowans should have a chance to vote on changing the constitution to specifically ban gay marriage," I was surprised to see that 20 percent of likely Republican voters disagreed with that statement.

Meanwhile, only 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that "Iowans should vote to remove current Supreme Court justices from their office because of their decision on gay marriage." An amazing (to me) 45 percent disagreed with that statement. Regarding the statement, "Some Iowans have overreacted to this issue, and having gay marriage in Iowa is just not that big a deal," 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters agreed, while 62 percent disagreed.

Tags: Iowa, same-sex marriage, Marriage Equality, Gay Marriage (all tags)


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