Iowa Still Ground Zero on Gay Marriage


More than two years before New York got its shit together last summer, the über-progressive state of Iowa made same-sex marriage legal in 2009. The decision came from the state’s Supreme Court, which drew from their state constitution’s long history of being way ahead of the curve on civil rights in general. Because of their ruling, same-sex marriage became a constitutional right in Iowa, as American as the corn in their fields (and the syrup which will be pumped into our McDonald’s apple pies).

In return, several of those judges were thrown out of office for ruling in this way last November. Marriage equality advocates were worried that a special election yesterday in the Iowa State Senate, which the Des Moines Register says cost more than a million dollars, could result in the Democratic controlled chamber going Republican and opening the door for Iowa to change its constitution. Marriage could have been limited to being between a man and a woman. However, with the election of Democrat Liz Mathis last night, that won’t happen.

At the same time, a United States Senate bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (which limits marriage to a man and a woman for all federal benefits, including immigration and federal taxation) is scheduled for a vote in the Judiciary Committee tomorrow. However, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is trying to keep it from getting voted out of committee. According to an email from the Courage Campaign, marriage equality advocates have:

10 votes to pass the bill, but Sen. Grassley is circulating amendments today that would take away rights from married same-sex couples. His goal is to either gut the bill or add enough poison pills that would make Senators waver on the bill…Among Sen. Grassley’s amendments is one that would strip federal rights from same-sex married couples when they travel from state to state.

Grassley need not be worried that the bill will become law anytime soon; it’s dead on arrival in the House.

But it’s interesting to see how Iowa is, once again, playing a pivotal role not just in presidential primary politics, but in the battle for equality for same-sex couples. And as a bellwether for America, Iowa is as schizophrenically incoherent on marriage equality as the rest of the nation.

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