Here's a radical idea on marriage. . .

In recent weeks, states such as Connecticut, Iowa, Maine and Massachusetts have enacted laws providing for same-sex marriages.  Other states like New York and California are embroiled in heated debates on whether they should allow gay marriage within their borders.  Georgia is one of those states that banned same-sex marriage five years ago via constitutional amendment.

In case you didn't know, five years ago I was legislative aide to Georgia state Representative Karla Drenner (D - Avondale Estates).  Five years ago, Representative Drenner was one of the public faces opposing Senate Resolution 595; the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in Georgia.  From the claims of "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" to the reasoning of marriage equality, five years ago, I heard nearly every argument there was for and against gay marriage; and there's one argument that always stood out to me.

According to a 2004 study by the Congressional Budget Office, there are 1,138 statutory provisions "in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving 'benefits, rights, and privileges.'" Once a straight couple gets "married," they become eligible for a range of benefits including the ability to file jointly on their income tax returns as well as being able to inherit an unlimited amount from their deceased spouse's estate without being subject to the estate tax.

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What About My Religious Freedom?

Like we need another SSM diary, but this is starting to really tee me off.  A Southern Unitarian-Universalist is generally about the most laid-back person you can meet, but get one mad enough, and we'll go Julia Sugarbaker on your ass.

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Update on marriage equality in Iowa

It's day four for legal same-sex marriage in Iowa, and I still haven't seen any reports of couples being refused a marriage license anywhere in the state. The Des Moines Register reported that about 350 same-sex couples received marriage licenses on Monday, the day the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v Brien went into effect. More than half of those applications were in five large counties: Polk (Des Moines area), Johnson (Iowa City), Linn (Cedar Rapids), Pottawattamie (Council Bluffs) and Scott (Quad Cities area).

According to this map on the Des Moines Register's site, about half of Iowa's 99 counties have issued at least one marriage license to a same-sex couple. No counties have denied marriage licenses yet, but many have yet to receive an application from a same-sex couple.

One Iowa, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the state, is trying to raise $25,000 by the end of April (that's today) in order to collect on a matching gift that will keep their television ad on the air. Click here to watch the ad and donate.

The Des Moines Register's business section featured an article on Thursday about gay-friendly wedding planners. Resources mentioned in the piece include gayweddingswithpanache.com, myiowagaywedding.com, iowasgayweddingplanner.com and iowagayweddingdirectory.com. Beau Fodor of gayweddingswithpanache.com said the most frequent questions he's been asked by out-of-state wedding seekers are whether people can get married on one of the covered bridges of Madison County and whether they will need to hire security for their wedding because of protests from those who oppose gay marriage. There were public protests in various Iowa cities on Monday, but none escalated to violence, and I haven't heard of any protesters standing outside county recorders' offices since then.

I believe that marriage equality has given the social conservatives the upper hand in the struggle for control over the Republican Party of Iowa. However, Republican moderates are not going to give up without a fight. Doug Gross, a Republican power-broker who was the 2002 gubernatorial nominee, is holding a press conference tomorrow to discuss results from a poll he commissioned last month. (A group of Republican insiders got an exclusive briefing on the poll today in Des Moines.) Although Gross is conservative personally, he has been calling on fellow Republicans to drop their litmus-test approach to social issues and focus more on Reaganesque rhetoric about the economy. Gross warned earlier this week that while gay marriage could be a good issue for Iowa Republicans, "if Republicans let this be the only thing they talk about, they won't be successful in 2010."

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that nationally, more Republicans are "rethinking" the party's stance on gay marriage:

The fact that a run of states have legalized gay marriage in recent months -- either by court decision or by legislative action -- with little backlash is only one indication of how public attitudes about this subject appear to be changing.

More significant is evidence in polls of a widening divide on the issue by age, suggesting to many Republicans that the potency of the gay-marriage question is on the decline. It simply does not appear to have the resonance with younger voters that it does with older ones.

Consider this: In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, released on Monday, 31 percent of respondents over the age of 40 said they supported gay marriage. By contrast, 57 percent under age 40 said they supported it, a 26-point difference. Among the older respondents, 35 percent said they opposed any legal recognition of same-sex couples, be it marriage or civil unions. Among the younger crowd, just 19 percent held that view.

I expect this trend to accelerate if marriage equality does not lead to an electoral backlash against Iowa Democrats next year.

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So far, so good on first day for marriage equality in Iowa

As of midday on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa had not heard of any same-sex couples having problems obtaining a marriage license in Iowa. Iowa Independent listed nearly two dozen counties in which marriage applications have been received, apparently without incident.

Various local media are covering the story from outside county office buildings or courthouses, and I haven't seen any reports of disorderly conduct. Some couples have already been married, having received a judge's permission to waive the normal three-day waiting period before marriage.

The petition drive to pressure county recorders not to do their jobs hasn't accomplished what conservatives were hoping for. Chuck Hurley, whose Iowa Family Policy Center promoted the petition drive, spoke to reporters in Des Moines after delivering petitions to Polk County recorder Julie Haggerty. He claims one county recorder is prepared to resign rather than issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, but he didn't specify the county. I suppose we'll find out if any gay or lesbian couples try to get married there. The good news for Hurley is that these petitions will help build his 501(c)3 group's mailing list, since organizers urged Iowans to send copies of all petitions to the Iowa Family Policy Center.

Hurley still doesn't get that the Supreme Court can invalidate laws that violate the constitution. He told reporters today, "The law, as we speak, this second says marriage in Iowa is between a man and a woman." I'm waiting for some Republican to stand up and explain the concept of judicial review to the confused conservatives, but I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, Governor Chet Culver said county recorders have a duty to comply with the Iowa Supreme Court ruling:

"The court has spoken loudly and clearly in a unanimous way. It's time to move on and respect the court," the governor said. [...]

"This is a duty and a responsibility that these elected officials have under Iowa law and they'll be expected to follow that and I believe they will," Culver told reporters outside a meeting he attended at the Dallas Center-Grimes high school.

The governor also said it's time for Iowans to aggressively focus on economic recovery and rebuilding the state's aging and disaster-damaged infrastructure rather than getting "sidetracked by divisive, partisan politics."

Culver mentioned that the Supreme Court ruling granted civil marriage rights but did not force churches to accept same-sex marriage. Senator Tom Harkin emphasized the same point today, and also predicted that marriage equality will one day be uncontroversial:

"Time heals all wounds," he added. "I think in the future people will shrug their shoulders and say what was the fuss all about.

"It won't take that long. I think things will calm down. As long as there is no drive -- and this is where I draw the line -- in mandating churches have to perform any kind of ceremony that is outside of their religious belief. That I'm  vehemently opposed to. But as the civil side goes, I think we're going to abide by the Supreme Court decision and I think in a few years it'll all be ho-hum."

Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy told the Des Moines Register that Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church canceled planned protests in Des Moines today, but are likely to come to Iowa later this week.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register has brief reports from around the state. Many rural county reporters say they've received the Iowa Family Policy Center's petitions today but haven't had any same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses yet.

The same article reported:

Jefferson County Supervisors this morning unanimously passed a resolution this morning asking lawmakers to take action against same-sex marriage.

“We expect the Iowa legislature to resolve the issue,” said Stephen Burgmeier, chairman of the three-member, all Republican board. “We hope it either leads to a public vote or to a constitutional amendment.”

It's not a particularly timely resolution, since the Iowa legislature just adjourned on April 26 and won't meet again until January 2010.

I'm surprised that Jefferson County, which voted for Obama by a 59-39 margin, has three Republican supervisors. Fairfield-area progressives have some work to do during the next county election campaign.

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Brief update on marriage equality news in Iowa

Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Iowa tomorrow, April 27. I will keep the MyDD community up to date on events, but for now here are a few links.

The Iowa legislature adjourned for the year early this morning, without a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage reaching a floor vote in either the Iowa House or Senate.

Eugene Delgaudio's right-wing Virginia-based group Public Advocate of the US has attacked Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley because he "refuses to do what it takes to get a vote on the Iowa Marriage Amendment."

The main Republican focus now is a pressure campaign against Iowa's county recorders. Ed and Lynn Fallon filed a formal ethics complaint against Iowa Republican Senator Merlin Bartz for promoting a petition drive to encourage county recorders to defy the Iowa Supreme Court ruling. Conservatives are clearly hoping to find at least one recorder who will refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. If that person is fired for not doing his or her job, the anti-gay movement will have a new hero and martyr.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund"is offering free legal defense to any of Iowa's 99 county recorders who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."

Fred Phelps and his band of crazies are expected in Iowa tomorrow to protest the Supreme Court ruling going into effect. Supporters of marriage equality will be handing out flowers to happy couples in several larger Iowa cities.

I'll have more on this story tomorrow.

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