DES MOINES - Governor Chet Culver today issued the following statement after reviewing the Iowa Supreme Court's decision in Varnum v. Brien:
"I have carefully reviewed the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous decision on civil marriage and discussed it with the Attorney General.
"Let me begin by saying that I recognize that the issue of same-gender civil marriage is one that evokes strongly held beliefs and strong emotions both for and against. These beliefs and feelings need to be respected. I hope that the views of those on all sides will be treated respectfully and will not be subjected to name-calling or fear-mongering, but instead will lead to rational discussion.
"At the outset, I want to emphasize that the question before the Iowa Supreme Court was one of civil marriage only - a state-recognized legal status constituting a civil contract. Civil marriage always has been, and will continue to be, separate from religious marriage that takes place in churches and places of worship.
"As I have stated before, I personally believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a tenet of my personal faith. The Iowa Supreme Court's decision has, in fact, reaffirmed that churches across Iowa will continue to have the right to recognize the sanctity of religious marriage in accordance with their own traditions and church doctrines. The Supreme Court's decision does not require that churches recognize marriages between persons of the same gender or officiate over such unions. The Court does not have, nor should any court ever have, that kind of power over our religious lives. Our churches and places of worship are free to decide for themselves, as they were before, who may enter the sacred covenant of marriage. As the Supreme Court's decision states, 'The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past.'
"Yet, the Supreme Court of Iowa, in a unanimous decision, has clearly stated that the Constitution of our state, which guarantees equal protection of the law to all Iowans, requires the State of Iowa to recognize the civil marriage contract of two people of the same gender. The Court also concluded that the denial of this right constitutes discrimination. Therefore, after careful consideration and a thorough reading of the Court's decision, I am reluctant to support amending the Iowa Constitution to add a provision that our Supreme Court has said is unlawful and discriminatory.
"As Governor, I must respect the authority of the Iowa Supreme Court, and have a duty to uphold the Constitution of the State of Iowa. I also fully respect the right of all Iowans to live under the full protection of Iowa's Constitution.
"I urge Iowans who hold beliefs on all sides of this issue to exhibit respect and good will. Our state faces many serious challenges. We are in the midst of a serious economic recession. Tens of thousands of our fellow Iowans are without work. We have suffered the worst natural disasters and most difficult recovery our state has ever faced. We must join together and redouble our efforts to work toward solutions that will help Iowans in this time of uncertainty. That is where, I believe, my focus and energies should lie.
"Let us not lose sight of the fact that we are all Iowans, all neighbors, united in the promise and faith of a brighter future for our state. Let us all work together toward that common goal."