So is it built to last?
This extraordinary ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court on Friday striking down the state’s ban on gay marriages, is it carved in bedrock or sand?
If you asked me wile I watched six brave couples hear the news they’ve waited years to hear, I’d say it’s bedrock. At least I’d sure hope for bedrock.
They were so joyful and relieved and genuinely happy. I find it very hard to believe my native state would ever take that away.
“Today, I’m proud to be a lifelong Iowan,” said Kate Varnum of Cedar Rapids, who stood with her partner of eight years Trish Varnum. They’re now planning a wedding, with cake and punch and a genuine Iowa marriage license.
But I also saw the determined faces of the conservative religious leaders who spoke in hushed tones outside the Judicial Building, where the Supreme Court handed them complete defeat.They vowed to seek a constitutional amendment banning the marriages proclaimed legal just minutes before.
They promised to throw those elated couples and hundreds of others like them back into second-class sorrow. Then they marched straight to the Statehouse across the street to demand that lawmakers take action.
They say the ruling sits on sand. But I say not so fast.
There are a few things the cultural warriors are forgetting.
For one thing, the culture war isn’t real high on Iowans’ list of priorities right now. Businesses are failing. People are getting pink slips and losing homes.
I’m not sure those folks are interested in watching their political leaders taking a social issues side trip while we have real problems to solve.
And if I’m a Republican leader in the Legislature, where the GOP is gaining political ground on tax and budget issues, the last thing I’d want is to hand my party’s megaphone back to the righteous right. Iowans want bread and butter, not fire and brimstone.
It’s also no sure thing that backers of a constitutional ban have the votes to get it through the General Assembly, let alone twice, as required by law. And even if it passes, and comes to a statewide vote in 2011 or 2012, will Iowans still care?
Will all those dire warnings about the end of civilization carry any weight after Iowans have lived with same-sex marriage for a couple of years? You’d know the answer to that if you spent five minutes with the couples who ended the ban.
And like it or not, Iowa is changing.
Our state’s identity has been redefined by two nation-shaking moments — President Obama’s surprising caucus victory and this surprising, unanimous court ruling. Iowa is the first Midwestern state to strike this blow for civil rights. Equality under the law isn’t just for the crazy coasts anymore. It’s hit the heartland, and that’s huge.
But for young Iowans, this really isn’t so huge. They’ve been waiting for the rest of us to catch up. A University of Iowa poll released this past week found that 56 percent of Iowans under 30 favor gay marriages. That number is rising steadily.
The tide is turning., and I don’t think Iowa is going back. The folks trying desperately to push backward, as history has shown again and again, will find they’re standing on sand.