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June 12th, 2011

One Iowa’s Jeff Angelo

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Written by: Nathan W. Tucker
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By Nathan Tucker

Former state senator Jeff Angelo (R) recently announced the creation of Iowa Republicans for Freedom, One Iowa’s attempt to “help give voice to Iowans who believe that conservative values of smaller government should keep government out of the private lives of all Iowans including gays and lesbians.”

Though formally announced last week, Angelo’s organization appears to have been initially launched in March.  According to a March 23rd article in the Des Moines Register, “Leaders of One Iowa, a group that supports gay marriage in Iowa, said they plan to travel to conservative pockets of the state to urge Republicans to speak out on the issue.  The public face of the effort will be Jeff Angelo, a Republican former state senator from Creston who sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa five years ago.”

At his June 1st press conference announcing the organization, Angelo admitted that Iowa Republicans for Freedom is receiving “administrative support” from One Iowa.  In fact, he appeared to have been channeling his inner Troy Price, Political Director of One Iowa, when he said “what happens if the individual freedom we’re discussing is gun control or universal health care?”  Price used the same phrase when talking with the editorial board of Cedar Rapid Gazette in March.

Angelo, who declined repeated requests by The Iowa Republican (TIR) for an interview, was asked during the press conference what prompted him to change his mind about gay marriage.  He tellingly responded:

There’s not a “ah-ha” moment.  There’s only the moment where, if you’re going to have meaningful relationships with friends or family that are gay, and you love them, and they’re part of the church, the neighborhood, and where you work, you begin to see how hurtful the rhetoric is in this debate towards them, and it becomes harder and harder to convince yourself to say “I love you but I don’t like the lifestyle you’ve chosen” and not understand that that’s hurtful.

Again, in his May 31st guest op-ed in the Register, he wrote:  “I heard from my church and my fellow Republicans that homosexuality was wrong, and I thought I could lovingly disagree with them. I could “hate the sin, love the sinner” as people say when they do not believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. But there came a point when I could no longer ignore how much this attitude hurt the people I know.”

At its core, therefore, Angelo’s change in position has everything to do with a change in his moral beliefs.  Once persuaded to love both the sin and the sinner so that, in his words, we don’t tell people “how…to feel about themselves,” he then proceeded to impose his morality on the rest of Iowans.  Ironic, given that he recently told NPR’s The Take Away that he had originally opposed gay marriage because “I felt so strongly in my religious beliefs…I believed that the government should recognize what I believed in my own faith.”

Angelo is still fighting for government recognition of the righteousness of his moral convictions, he’s just changed them since his time in the statehouse.  This time around, Angelo and One Iowa are hoping to convince skeptical conservatives by appealing to their libertarian streak by proudly proclaiming that:

This debate really centers around one idea: whether government has the right to say whom a person should love and marry. As a proud conservative, I believe in smaller, limited government, and that government should have no more of a right to say whom I can marry than they should be able to tell my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters whom they can marry.

But as Iowa Newz Liter noted, “Government doesn’t tell you who you SHOULD marry, but it still tells you who you SHALL NOT marry.  It’s illegal to marry for the sole purpose of citizenship.  Bigamy and Polygamy remain illegal.  Marriage among immediate family is forbidden.  We don’t allow children to marry each other, or an adult to marry a child under a certain age.”  A true libertarian position would be that government has no business defining marriage, period.

Undeterred, however, Angelo argued at his press conference that:  “The freedom to choose someone as important as a spouse, the person you spend your life with, and create a family with, is paramount to the pursuit of happiness guaranteed by our constitution…the freedom to marry the person they choose without being discriminated against by our government.”

One Iowa and Angelo should recheck their constitutions, for the phrase “pursuit of happiness” is not found in either our state or federal constitutions but in the Declaration of Independence as a euphemism for private property.  Neither does it nor the “freedom to marry” appear capable of having a limiting principle other than one’s own moral convictions.

This became apparent when he was interviewed by WHO Radio’s Jan Mickelson on June 6th and a caller asked him about bigamy.  Angelo responded:  “I think [three-person marriage is] not the issue…What gay Iowans are asking for is the right to have their marriage recognized at city hall by the government…That’s not what they are talking about or asking…People are not asking us for that.”  This led to an interesting exchange between Angelo and Mickelson:

Mickelson:  “By what principle could you say no to somebody who wanted to have more than one spouse?”

Angelo:  “You decide it by folks going to city hall and the courthouses.”

Mickelson:  “Okay, so you have three people show up at the courthouse.  By what principle do you say no?”

Angelo:  “You basically have to say through that particular process is that this is a stable, committed relationship that serves the community, that serves these people well.”

Mickelson:  “You would have no moral or legal principle by which to say no?”

Angelo:  “No, I think we would have to have that discussion if people were asking about polygamy.  But they’re not asking for polygamy.”

But, Senator Angelo, you said “the freedom to marry is an issue of personal freedom, pure and simple” and that “the sanctity of personal liberty [is] the foundation of our conservative values.”  In fact, you called out your own party for “discriminating against law abiding adults” and stated that “what I would like to hear my party argue is how does equal protection under the law not apply here?”

In the end, it appears you are just as bigoted as the rest of us, engaging in “…a senseless debate that only serves to hurt our fellow Iowans…[and] divide our communities rather than strengthening our families.”  So much for your recent tweet that “stereotypes are created to make things simple for people.  Reject stereotypes, and embrace life’s beautiful complexity.”

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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker

Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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