Iowa’s lack of a marriage residency requirement has caused Iowa to become, in the words of Representative Steve King, a “gay Mecca” ever since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in April of last year. To date, those out-of-state gay couples who come to Iowa to be married return to states that do not recognize such marriages. All that will change next year when one of Iowa’s neighboring states will begin to recognize gay marriages performed in Iowa as valid.
On Friday, the Illinois Senate passed a civil union bill by a vote of 32-24-1, the day after it passed the House by a one-vote margin. The bill is all but certain to be signed by Governor Pat Quinn, one of its most ardent supporters, and will take effect June 1, 2011.
Quinn was publicly reprimanded by the Catholic Diocese of Springfield for claiming that his religious faith led him to support the bill. While unfortunately unwilling to excommunicate the Governor, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki stated: “He did not say what religious faith that would be, but it is certainly not the Catholic faith. [I]f he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority, and the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.”
State Senator David Koehler, the sponsor of the legislation, disingenuously argued that, “It’s not gay marriage. This is a secular way of legally providing rights and benefits across the board.” To the contrary, however, the bill provides parties to a civil union with “the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.”
A civil union is simply marriage by another name. Tactically acknowledging this reality, the measure treats the dissolution of a civil union like a divorce, requiring that a “court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of a civil union if at the time the action is commenced it meets the grounds of dissolution set forth in Section 401 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.”
Additionally, the bill treats civil unions as marriages by incorporating Sections 301-306 of the state’s marriage laws to “the declaration of invalidity of a civil union” due to, for instance, the inability of one party to give consent. Further belying Senator Koehler’s statement that it does not create gay marriage, the law mirrors Illinois’ marriage statute by limiting civil unions to two unrelated individuals.
Finally, in the reciprocity provision that concerns Iowa, the statute treats civil unions equally with marriage, stating that: “A marriage between persons of the same sex, a civil union, or a substantially similar legal relationship other than common law marriage, legally entered into in another jurisdiction, shall be recognized in Illinois as a civil union.”
Despite now being able to enter into a de facto marriage relationship in their home state, many gay Illinoisans still desire the perceived public approval and legitimacy that comes from the actual word “marriage.” For them, the reciprocity provision provides the best of both worlds–obtain an actual marriage certificate in Iowa and have it recognized in Illinois.
This likely means an influx of Illinoisans crossing the border to obtain their sodomy licenses that will, for the first time, be recognized as valid when they return home. So far in 2010, 95 of the 223 same-sex marriage licenses issued in Davenport have gone to residents of Illinois, even though those licenses currently aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.
According to a report last spring by the Iowa Department of Public Health, a total of 2,020 same-sex marriage licenses were issued in the state between April 27, 2009, and March 31, 2010. Of those, more than 600 were issued to residents from Iowa’s neighboring states, while an additional 550 to those from states further away.
Doubtless those numbers will increase throughout eastern Iowa when Illinoisans cross the border to obtain their “anchor marriages.” It is imperative, therefore, that the Iowa General Assembly act this year to pass a marriage residency requirement to ensure that only Iowa residents are marrying in Iowa.
In addition to working to stop gay marriage in our own state, we must effectively put a stop to exporting it to other states.
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