Iowa marriage equality anniversary thread

One year ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that our state's Defense of Marriage Act violated the equal protection provision of the Iowa Constitution. From the day that ruling went into effect through the end of 2009, at least 1,783 same-sex couples received marriage licenses in Iowa. The real number is probably higher, because about 900 marriage licenses did not specify the gender of the couple involved.

Follow me after the jump for a review of news about marriage equality in Iowa, stories featuring happy couples, and thoughts about the future politics of this issue.

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Homosexuality Yields Bestiality: J.D. Hayworth's Campaign Strategy

 

A part of me wants to still be surprised when I see a headline to an article that reads "Gay Marriage Law Could Produce Man-Horse Nuptials," but unfortunately I am not (the headline being a quote of course).

I used to think that these types of crazies who would utter such nonsense were small in number, but this too seems to be an unfair assumption.  

It is understandable to be opposed to gay marriage.  However, it is unacceptable to be so close-minded about the idea.  Society has changed and social norms from 50 years ago may not apply in the present time.  This whole slippery-slope mentality that many on the far right wing seem to be sharing nowadays is a bit disturbing.  Equating something like gay marriage to sexual intercourse with animals is an insult to the homosexual community.  

Okay Mr. Hayworth, you believe homosexual marriage is wrong.  That's fine.  Everyone cannot be expected to agree on this issue (especially most Republicans), but substantive and politically correct arguments should be used and not knee-jerk political smears.

I have this fantasy where a political election would be comprised of individuals who run intelligent and passionate campaigns that speak the truth, and whose candidates truly care about what they are running for and hoping to represent.  People like Mr. J.D. Hayworth continue to grind this idea into the ground with the soles of their shoes.

 

Caution: Now entering a fact- and logic-free zone

I've heard some strange arguments against marriage equality, but the latest from Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley is a doozy. Reacting to a new report on HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men, Hurley asserted,

 

“The Iowa Legislature outlawed smoking [in some public places] in an effort to improve health and reduce the medical costs that are often passed on to the state,” Hurley said. “The secondhand impacts of certain homosexual acts are arguably more destructive, and potentially more costly to society than smoking.” [...]

 

“Iowa lawmakers need to pay attention to hard facts and not be persuaded by emotion laden half-truths,” he said. “Because of their unwillingness to correct the error of last April’s Iowa Supreme Court opinion, the Iowa Legislature is responsible for sanctioning activities that will lead to dramatically higher rates of HIV and syphilis in Iowa.”

 

Where to begin? Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and various respiratory ailments, causing an estimated 438,000 preventable deaths every year nationwide. In Iowa, smoking directly causes an estimated 4,400 deaths each year, and secondhand smoke claims another 440 lives. Smoking causes about $1 billion in health care costs every year in Iowa, of which about $301 million is covered by Medicaid.

AIDS is a serious health threat in the U.S., but not on the same scale as smoking. AIDS has caused fewer than 20,000 deaths nationwide per year in the past decade. The total number of AIDS deaths in this country since the epidemic began is estimated at just under 600,000. I was unable to find statistics showing how many Iowans have died of AIDS, but according to this report for the Iowa Department of Public Health, 114 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2005, and 79 Iowans were diagnosed with AIDS the same year. The numbers may have increased somewhat since then, but AIDS is nowhere near as "destructive" and "costly" to Iowans as smoking. Iowa's syphilis rate is far below the national average, and none of the states with the highest syphilis rates permit same-sex marriages. If Iowa legislators want to influence the syphilis rate, they should focus on providing adequate funding levels for STD testing and ensuring that young people have access to medically accurate sex education.

Hurley's argument is not only fact-free, but also illogical on several levels. He seems to think that allowing same-gender couples to get married is going to encourage many more Iowans to experiment with gay sex. Do you know anyone who decided to become gay because they knew they'd be able to get married? Has homosexual activity diminished in New York and New Jersey since those states' legislatures declined to legalize same-sex marriage? Did California's Proposition 8 reduce the number of gays and lesbians having sex there?

If Hurley is worried about promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases, he should be happy to see gay couples settle down and get married. His opposition to gay marriage is more coherent than, say, Terry Branstad's, but it's also more detached from reality. Maybe Hurley's latest comments aren't the worst argument ever against gay marriage, but they are certainly a contender.

Contrary to the strange fantasies of the Iowa Family Policy Center crowd, the Iowa Supreme Court didn't make the sky fall last April. Fortunately, most Iowans understand that our state legislators have more important things to do than overturn same-sex marriage rights. They also sense that giving legal recognition to the relationships of committed same-sex couples does no harm to other people. More than 90 percent of respondents in a statewide poll conducted last September said gay marriage had caused "no real change" in their lives.

Republicans failed to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a floor vote in the Iowa House or Senate this year. However, they kept trying to inject the marriage issue into unrelated legislation, most recently a bill that would take gun rights away from people who are subject to a restraining order or have been convicted of domestic abuse crimes.

Caution: Now entering a fact- and logic-free zone

I've heard some strange arguments against marriage equality, but the latest from Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley is a doozy. Reacting to a new report on HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men, Hurley asserted,

 

“The Iowa Legislature outlawed smoking [in some public places] in an effort to improve health and reduce the medical costs that are often passed on to the state,” Hurley said. “The secondhand impacts of certain homosexual acts are arguably more destructive, and potentially more costly to society than smoking.” [...]

 

“Iowa lawmakers need to pay attention to hard facts and not be persuaded by emotion laden half-truths,” he said. “Because of their unwillingness to correct the error of last April’s Iowa Supreme Court opinion, the Iowa Legislature is responsible for sanctioning activities that will lead to dramatically higher rates of HIV and syphilis in Iowa.”

 

Where to begin? Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and various respiratory ailments, causing an estimated 438,000 preventable deaths every year nationwide. In Iowa, smoking directly causes an estimated 4,400 deaths each year, and secondhand smoke claims another 440 lives. Smoking causes about $1 billion in health care costs every year in Iowa, of which about $301 million is covered by Medicaid.

AIDS is a serious health threat in the U.S., but not on the same scale as smoking. AIDS has caused fewer than 20,000 deaths nationwide per year in the past decade. The total number of AIDS deaths in this country since the epidemic began is estimated at just under 600,000. I was unable to find statistics showing how many Iowans have died of AIDS, but according to this report for the Iowa Department of Public Health, 114 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2005, and 79 Iowans were diagnosed with AIDS the same year. The numbers may have increased somewhat since then, but AIDS is nowhere near as "destructive" and "costly" to Iowans as smoking. Iowa's syphilis rate is far below the national average, and none of the states with the highest syphilis rates permit same-sex marriages. If Iowa legislators want to influence the syphilis rate, they should focus on providing adequate funding levels for STD testing and ensuring that young people have access to medically accurate sex education.

Hurley's argument is not only fact-free, but also illogical on several levels. He seems to think that allowing same-gender couples to get married is going to encourage many more Iowans to experiment with gay sex. Do you know anyone who decided to become gay because they knew they'd be able to get married? Has homosexual activity diminished in New York and New Jersey since those states' legislatures declined to legalize same-sex marriage? Did California's Proposition 8 reduce the number of gays and lesbians having sex there?

If Hurley is worried about promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases, he should be happy to see gay couples settle down and get married. His opposition to gay marriage is more coherent than, say, Terry Branstad's, but it's also more detached from reality. Maybe Hurley's latest comments aren't the worst argument ever against gay marriage, but they are certainly a contender.

Contrary to the strange fantasies of the Iowa Family Policy Center crowd, the Iowa Supreme Court didn't make the sky fall last April. Fortunately, most Iowans understand that our state legislators have more important things to do than overturn same-sex marriage rights. They also sense that giving legal recognition to the relationships of committed same-sex couples does no harm to other people. More than 90 percent of respondents in a statewide poll conducted last September said gay marriage had caused "no real change" in their lives.

Republicans failed to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a floor vote in the Iowa House or Senate this year. However, they kept trying to inject the marriage issue into unrelated legislation, most recently a bill that would take gun rights away from people who are subject to a restraining order or have been convicted of domestic abuse crimes.

Yet another poll shows Iowans not eager to overturn marriage equality

This week Research 2000 polled 600 likely Iowa voters for KCCI-TV, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines. The survey included a couple of questions related to the rights of same-sex couples:

QUESTION: As you may know, same-sex marriages have been legal in Iowa for over a year. Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment which would over turn current law allowing same sex marriages in Iowa?

YES NO NOT SURE

ALL 39% 42% 19%

MEN 43% 40% 17%

WOMEN 35% 44% 21%

DEMOCRATS 22% 64% 14%

REPUBLICANS 66% 13% 21%

INDEPENDENTS 33% 45% 22%

QUESTION: Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriages, do you favor or oppose allowing same-sex couples the same benefits allowed to heterosexual couples, known as civil unions?

FAVOR OPPOSE NOT SURE

ALL 51% 40% 9%

MEN 47% 44% 9%

WOMEN 55% 36% 9%

DEMOCRATS 77% 21% 2%

REPUBLICANS 16% 68% 16%

INDEPENDENTS 55% 35% 10%

Less than a year after the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling, a slight plurality of Iowans would not support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Among independents, a plurality oppose a constitutional amendment and a strong majority would support equal rights for same-sex couples in the form of civil unions. Even among Republican respondents, just two-thirds supported banning gay marriage.

Research 2000's results are similar to the findings of a statewide poll Selzer and Co. conducted for the Des Moines Register last September. In that survey, 41 percent of respondents said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 40 percent would vote against such an amendment. In addition, 92 percent of respondents said marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples had led to "no real change" in their own lives.

In the most recent Des Moines Register poll, conducted less than a month ago, more than 60 percent of respondents said gay marriage "does not deserve the [Iowa] Legislature's limited time" this session.

Iowa conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart has complained that the Des Moines Register asked the wrong question two polls in a row. He thinks pollsters ought to ask Iowans whether citizens should be able to vote on a definition of marriage. The Iowa Republican blog commissioned a poll asking that question last summer and found that 67 percent of respondents said yes. However, that Republican poll conveniently failed to ask respondents whether they would support or oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Last week Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate defeated Republican efforts to force a floor vote on a marriage amendment. Although GOP candidates and interest groups will push their "let us vote" campaign this fall, I am less and less worried about the marriage issue hurting Democrats in the 2010 statehouse elections. Economic issues will be far more important to voters.

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