Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
DES MOINES, Iowa – In the Midwest, a region of the country widely considered to be a bedrock of traditional American values, many people are in shock following an Iowa Supreme Court decision released yesterday overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“I was surprised,” said Brian Friedl, a resident of Humboldt, Iowa, a small community two hours north of the state’s capital. “I hadn’t followed it that closely, so I didn’t know it was up for a vote.”
The justices in Iowa’s Supreme Court did indeed vote – unanimously in the case of six homosexual couples suing the registrar of Polk County for the opportunity to marry. The court released its opinion yesterday, upholding a 2007 district court ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Iowa Constitution because it fails to uphold “equal protection of the law.”
“The court reaffirmed that a statute inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution must be declared void, even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion,” said a summary of the ruling issued by the court.
Friedl told WND that he expected homosexual marriage might get legalized in California and then spread across the country in time, but he didn’t expect his home state to lead the charge.
“I was a little shocked that it came from Iowa,” he said.
“I’m interested what happens to the reaction when people who went to work today get home, click on the TV and see what happened,” said Bryan English, director of communications for the Iowa Family Policy Center. “I don’t think most Iowans would have ever imagined that this sort of thing could be foisted on the state.”
If fully implemented, the court’s decision would make Iowa the third state in the country, following Massachusetts and Connecticut, to permit same-sex marriage. According to Iowa law, the ruling becomes effective April 24.
The decision, however, has far-reaching implications, since the absence of residency rules for marriage in Iowa would permit same-sex couples from across the country to travel to the Midwest to be married.
“In 21 days, the first time that it becomes a reality that homosexual couples are flying into the state, that our state is sanctioning this, I cannot imagine that the average Iowan is going to have much time for that sort of thing,” said English, whose organization opposes same-sex marriage. “I think the political class has underestimated the reaction and the response that I hope will come from Iowans who will not stand for the redefinition of marriage.”
Advocates of same-sex marriage, however, see yet another significance in the Iowa court’s decision.
Richard Socarides, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and assistant to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, told the Associated Press, “It’s a big win because, coming from Iowa, it represents the mainstreaming of gay marriage.”
“Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa,” Socarides told the Des Moines Register. “As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”
Des Moines radio talk host Steve Deace, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, told WND that the court’s ruling will indeed affect the entire country.
“Today the state that feeds the world gave America its latest export – sodomy marriage,” Deace said. “Because our state has no residency requirement, no ballot initiative capability for the people, and an utterly gutless political class on both sides, we just made Middle America the sanctuary for those all over America sadly caught in the vile clutches of homosexuality to come here and be validated and then take those marriage certificates back to where they came from and attempt to disrupt their state’s rule of law as well.”
Four years ago, Iowans made an attempt to pass a constitutional marriage amendment that would have prevented the court’s decision, but though it passed through the state House of Representatives, it failed to gather enough votes in the Senate.
Now, several Iowans are pressing for the amendment again.
“The initial reaction was, of course, disappointment, sadness, very much like a period of mourning,” English told WND. “Though it didn’t take us long to turn our back on the Supreme Court, face the State Capitol and walk across the street to begin the process of strengthening our lobbying efforts for an Iowa Marriage Amendment.
“The people of Iowa overwhelmingly support the only definition of marriage, which is one man and one woman, and the Supreme Court decided to overturn the law that was written and passed by those people’s representatives,” English said. “Now it’s time for the legislature to reassert itself as the legislative body, pass the marriage amendment, and bring it to the people of Iowa for a vote.”
English conceded, however, that the process will likely be long. Iowa law requires that a constitutional amendment be passed by both houses of the legislature, passed by popular vote, and then passed again by the state House and Senate.
“We could get it on the ballot in 2011, but that would require a special election,” English said. “More likely, it would go on ballot November 2012, but that’s presuming people rise up in sufficient numbers to force a belligerent leadership in the House and Senate to do something.
“It’s going to take an unprecedented response from the people to take back their government,” he said.
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