For every story about a gay or lesbian couple from Iowa making arrangements to get married now that it is “legal”, there are stories about bus loads of out-of-state gay couples making their way to Iowa in the weeks ahead to get married as well.
Recent census information shows that Iowa has just over 3,000 same-sex couples. It is expected that a similar number will get married over the next three years. However, a study done by UCLA’s Law School estimates that over 55,000 out-of-state gay couples will come to Iowa to be married over the next three years.
While there has been plenty of outrage over the fact that gay marriage is now allowed in Iowa, nothing has been done to prevent these out-of-state couples from getting married in our state. Instead, the focus has only been on trying to pass a constitutional amendment to defining marriage and the union of one man and one woman, and some have encouraged County Recorders not to issue licenses.
Ever since the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v. Brien, many Republican legislators have been criticized for not doing enough to try to stop these marriages from occurring, or at least for not forcing a vote on the issue, even if it’s just a procedural vote. Yet, the reason that a residency requirement wasn’t even brought up in the House or Senate is not because Republicans refused to act, but because they were divided on the issue.
Iowa Republicans could not even agree to sign a petition with the following language.
“We support an amendment to the Iowa Constitution defining marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman. We call upon the Iowa House and Senate to immediately allow a vote and to pass this constitutional amendment to protect marriage in Iowa. This will allow the people of Iowa to vote on a constitutional amendment. At the same time, and before adjournment of the Iowa legislature, we call for immediate passage of a residency law that limits Iowa marriage licenses to Iowans or those seeking to be married who are eligible under the laws of their states of residence.”
The reason why a residency requirement was such a divisive issues was due to the fact that some supporters of a constitutional amendment were vehemently opposed to it because they felt a residency requirement will allow certain legislators some political cover on the same-sex marriage issue. Additionally, some traditional marriage supporters believe that the threat that Iowa now presents in exporting same-sex marriage may help other states pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
I question this strategy when I read articles about gay couples from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska all making plans to come to Iowa just to get married. The opposition to a residency requirement seems foolish now that the legislators all went home, and there is nothing that will prevent or slow down the number of gay couples getting married in Iowa for at least the next nine months.
This is especially troubling given that Governor Chet Culver publically stated, “I’m open to talking to legislators about any legislation, and I think there will be a lot of different ideas that will be discussed in this session or next.” However, Culver flip-flopped on his pledge to do all within his power to protect traditional marriage, so taking him at his word isn’t something you should take to the bank.
Yet, in Governor Culver, we have a politician who wants to try to have it both ways. Why didn’t we use that to our advantage and try to pass a residency requirement which would stop the spread of gay marriage to other states?
Today, and in the weeks that lay ahead, we will hear a lot of people say that we didn’t do enough to prevent gay marriage. They are right. We didn’t try to pass a residency requirement.
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