Culver finally weighs in

After four days of reflection, Gov. Chet Culver has a statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v. Brien:


DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver today issued the following statement after reviewing the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in Varnum v. Brien:

“I have carefully reviewed the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on civil marriage and discussed it with the Attorney General.

“Let me begin by saying that I recognize that the issue of same-gender civil marriage is one that evokes strongly held beliefs and strong emotions both for and against. These beliefs and feelings need to be respected. I hope that the views of those on all sides will be treated respectfully and will not be subjected to name-calling or fear-mongering, but instead will lead to rational discussion.

“At the outset, I want to emphasize that the question before the Iowa Supreme Court was one of civil marriage only – a state-recognized legal status constituting a civil contract. Civil marriage always has been, and will continue to be, separate from religious marriage that takes place in churches and places of worship.

“As I have stated before, I personally believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a tenet of my personal faith. The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision has, in fact, reaffirmed that churches across Iowa will continue to have the right to recognize the sanctity of religious marriage in accordance with their own traditions and church doctrines. The Supreme Court’s decision does not require that churches recognize marriages between persons of the same gender or officiate over such unions. The Court does not have, nor should any court ever have, that kind of power over our religious lives. Our churches and places of worship are free to decide for themselves, as they were before, who may enter the sacred covenant of marriage. As the Supreme Court’s decision states, ‘The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past.’

“Yet, the Supreme Court of Iowa, in a unanimous decision, has clearly stated that the Constitution of our state, which guarantees equal protection of the law to all Iowans, requires the State of Iowa to recognize the civil marriage contract of two people of the same gender. The Court also concluded that the denial of this right constitutes discrimination. Therefore, after careful consideration and a thorough reading of the Court’s decision, I am reluctant to support amending the Iowa Constitution to add a provision that our Supreme Court has said is unlawful and discriminatory.

“As Governor, I must respect the authority of the Iowa Supreme Court, and have a duty to uphold the Constitution of the State of Iowa. I also fully respect the right of all Iowans to live under the full protection of Iowa’s Constitution.

“I urge Iowans who hold beliefs on all sides of this issue to exhibit respect and good will. Our state faces many serious challenges. We are in the midst of a serious economic recession. Tens of thousands of our fellow Iowans are without work. We have suffered the worst natural disasters and most difficult recovery our state has ever faced. We must join together and redouble our efforts to work toward solutions that will help Iowans in this time of uncertainty. That is where, I believe, my focus and energies should lie.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that we are all Iowans, all neighbors, united in the promise and faith of a brighter future for our state. Let us all work together toward that common goal.”

I  appreciate how the governor articulates a separation between his personal beliefs and the content of laws that impact all Iowans. I’m just not sure why it took several days for his folks to think that up. It’s the very same concept that lies at the core of the Supreme Court ruling.

Of course, Culver will be ripped up and down by many for not trying to impose his personal beliefs on the state constitution, but none of his harshest critics would vote for him even if he supported a ban. 

He also has no formal role in the amendment process, at least no more than any other Iowan who shows up to vote. But he’s up for re-election next year, and that’s what makes his oh-so-carefully chosen words important.

Some of the criticism he gets will be fair. In campaign settings, he clearly said he opposed same-sex marriages and didn’t add qualifiers. Culver dodges lots of issues by taking positions (favoring local control of hog lots, opposing English only, no new taxes) only to sidestep them later. It feeds the persistent notion that he’s all weather-vane, no bedrock.

At face value, I can’t disagree what Culver is saying. But nothing in politics gets taken at face value.

I see this as a fairly thoughtful position, that took too much time to think up, from a governor who wouldn’t have to go through this sort of thing if he didn’t always allow politics to tie him up in knots.

Let the parsing and shredding begin.



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5 responses to “Culver finally weighs in

  1. MV

    I agree with your assessment. I’m all for thoughtfulness and deliberation versus kneejerk reactions, but the delayed timing of Culver’s statement definitely seems to me more like political triangulation bordering on cowardice.

  2. chris l

    I am apalled that the governor supports changing our Constitution to effectively discriminate against hard working, law abiding Iowans, regardless of their sexual orientation. Does the government no longer believe we have the right to the pursuit of happiness?
    I am equally saddened that many churches would not sanctify the union of two people in the name of God simply because of their sexual orientation. Are we not all Gods children, and are we to judge others? These are the tenets of religion and government in America and they need to be upheld, regardless of the views of those who would seek to discriminate and persecute those who choose to dedicate their life to someone they love. Certainly the lessons of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s have not been forgotten so soon?

  3. Iowa Cynic

    Don’t forget Culver’s big election pander: The death penalty. He also opposes ag imports from Venus.

  4. So he took a few days to put out a statement, I don’t understand why that is an issue. It’s not like his response to this was to a real urgent situation, like a natural disaster. I would much prefer people in public offices and politics to take a bit of time, think about what they are going to say and why rather than just spouting off their initial gut reaction (which might change after they calm down anyways).

  5. This statement just makes me more resolute in my view that the government should get out of the marriage business. This idea of differentiating between “civil marriage” and “religious marriage” is ridiculous.

    I think the government should only grant civil union/partnership licenses to everyone and leave the declaration of what constitutes a marriage up to individual religions.

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