Ten dishonest talking points on the marriage amendment in Iowa

A constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to couples of the opposite sex advanced on January 24 in both a subcommittee of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee and the full committee. House Joint Resolution 6 states, “Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state.” Iowa Republicans have promised for months to approve a constitutional amendment overturning the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 decision striking down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. This amendment goes further, barring any kind of legal union apart from marriage and therefore any legal recognition for same-sex relationships.  

After an emotionally charged subcommittee hearing with more than 200 observers present, Republicans Dwayne Alons and Chris Hagenow voted to advance the amendment, while Democrat Beth Wessel-Kroeschell voted no. Later in the day, the full House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a 13 to 8 vote. Democrat Kurt Swaim joined all 12 Republicans in voting yes, while the other Democrats on the committee voted no. Click here for a list of House Judiciary Committee members.

Reading the news coverage of yesterday’s debate, I was struck by how many misleading talking points were used to justify denying rights and privileges to thousands of Iowans.  

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Poll shows majority of Iowans favor marriage equality

Research 2000’s latest Iowa poll for KCCI-TV contains good news for supporters of marriage equality. The survey asked, “Now that more than a year has gone by since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, do you favor or oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples?” 53 percent respondents said they favor those rights, 41 percent opposed them and 6 percent were unsure.

I haven’t seen the full poll results, showing support for same-sex marriage rights among men, women, Democrats, Republicans and independents. I will update this post with a link to the cross-tabs when I find them. Bryan English of the Iowa Family Policy Center told KCCI he didn’t think the poll was representative of Iowans’ views, but several other statewide polls have shown that the majority of Iowans are not eager to overturn marriage equality. As time passes, public acceptance should increase if the experience of Vermont and Massachusetts are guides.

The KCCI poll also found that 62 percent of respondents support legalizing medical marijuana in Iowa, 33 percent oppose doing so and 5 percent are unsure.

Getting back to the same-sex marriage issue, I give huge credit to the Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor, Eric Cooper. On Thursday he made the case for tolerance while speaking to the Ames Conservative Breakfast Club.

Here’s my rough transcript of the first part of this clip:

You know who the Pilgrims were? The Pilgrims were a group of people in England, and everybody in England hated their guts. And you know what they did? They came to America to live here. And the reason–they came here because we were the land of the free. We started the land of the free. That is, even if everyone in surrounding society hates your guts, in America as long as you’re not hurting other people and their property, you can live the way that you want, as long as you’re being peaceful.

To me, that’s the most American story there is. If you’re a peaceful person who’s not hurting other people, you get to live your life according to your cultural traditions. OK, well, guess what? There are some homosexuals in America today, and to me, they’re the Pilgrims, ok? Surrounding society doesn’t like ’em very much, but you know what? What America is, is you get to live the way that you want to live. And if their cultural tradition is that they can get married, I think that’s America, to allow them to follow that cultural tradition. No, I don’t think that’s [unintelligible] surrounding society as a whole, and I think if we’re gonna restrict that, we’re not America anymore, we’re England, ok? And we’re better than England, we’re America.

Now people say, “Well shouldn’t we be allowed to vote on marriage and what marriage means in the state of Iowa?” Well, yeah, legally, there are mechanisms by which a sufficiently large supermajority can persecute any minority they want. Yes, legally, we could all vote to persecute the Pilgrims if we wanted to and yeah, legally, we could all vote to say, you know, gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry if we want to. But that’s not America anymore, ok?

Cooper’s a bit off on the history. The Pilgrims were far from laid-back and accepting of other people’s traditions. In fact, “New England Puritans, long viewed as a persecuted group in England, were the least tolerant of other faiths.” But I cut Cooper slack. He’s a neuroscientist, not a historian, and what he did took guts.

You’d expect a Libertarian addressing a Republican group to focus on likely areas of agreement: reducing taxes and the size of government. Instead of just preaching to the choir, Cooper challenged his audience to think about a charged issue differently. He had to know that most people at that breakfast club oppose what the Iowa Supreme Court did.

Post any thoughts on same-sex marriage in Iowa in this thread. The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa’s leading gay wedding planner may star in a television “docu-reality series” about his work. Beau Fodor created Gay Weddings With Panache soon after the Varnum v Brien decision was announced last year.

UPDATE: On Sunday the Des Moines Register published results from a Selzer and Co. Iowa poll of 501 likely Iowa Republican primary voters, which was in the field from June 1 through June 3. The survey included several questions about gay marriage. About 77 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that “Iowans should have a chance to vote on changing the constitution to specifically ban gay marriage,” but 20 percent disagreed with that statement. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that “Iowans should vote to remove current Supreme Court justices from their office because of their decision on gay marriage.” About 45 percent disagreed with that statement. Regarding the statement, “Some Iowans have overreacted to this issue, and having gay marriage in Iowa is just not that big a deal,” 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters agreed, while 62 percent disagreed. I find those numbers encouraging.

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Culver with Biden in Cedar Rapids thread

Vice President Joe Biden headlines Governor Chet Culver’s re-election rally today in Cedar Rapids. If you are watching in person or online, please share your impressions in this thread. I will update the post later with more coverage of the event. Adam Sullivan is live-tweeting for Iowa Independent.

Yesterday the governor kicked off his campaign at Hoover High School in Des Moines, followed by stops in Ames, Marshalltown and Waterloo. Kathie Obradovich felt Culver’s speech “salvaged” the otherwise low-energy event in Des Moines. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Culver’s remarks, which his campaign released. He frames the race as a choice of going backwards “to policies that created this recession” or forward to continue the investments his administration has begun. Culver outlined some goals for the next five years, such as completing rebuilding efforts from the 2008 floods, “making quality pre-school available to every Iowa child whose parents want to take advantage of it,” pursuing stem cell research in Iowa, and “increasing the percentage of our energy production coming from alternative sources from 20% to at least 30%.” Culver chided Republicans who “just say no,” think corporate tax cuts are the answer for every problem and “continue to preach the failed doctrine of trickle down economics.”

In addition to the excerpts you’ll find below, the governor spoke up for protecting a woman’s right to make her own health-care decisions and against writing discrimination into the Iowa constitution. Later in Marshalltown, Culver noted that discrimination is “not the Iowa way […] We’ve always been at the front when it’s come to civil rights.”

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Speaking of Republicans who want to take us backwards, Terry Branstad’s campaign started running a new ad today, which portrays the former governor as “the change we need now.” I’ll have more to say about Branstad’s campaign message in a different post, but for now I wonder whether he will get away with repeating his lie about Iowa running a “billion-dollar deficit.”

UPDATE: Um, what the heck? Someone get the governor a driver who won’t try to chase another driver down for a stupid reason.

John Deeth liveblogged the Biden event here. Kathie Obradovich tweeted here. Key points of Biden’s message: he’s known Chet Culver since he was seven years old and knows he has “the gumption to handle the job at this time.” Also, with Culver in charge “Iowa is better off than almost every other state in the nation … Iowa is still moving forward.” Biden praised Culver for being ahead of the curve in establishing the Power Fund in 2007:

“Government is not the answer but it can prime the pump and encourage the private sector.”

“45 out of [50] governors, Democrat and Republican, are sitting on their hands. Because of Chet’s leadership Iowa is better prepared.” […]

“What are Republicans FOR? Not a joke. Tell me one affirmative thing the Republican Party is for.”

Good question, Mr. Vice President. Biden also noted that the stimulus bill brought $3.3 billion to Iowa, and said Culver had used $4 billion in federal and state flood recovery money well. Biden said Iowa is on the upswing and has an unemployment rate well below the national average, which is “no accident, it’s because of Governor Chet Culver.”

SECOND UPDATE: Todd Dorman found Biden’s praise for Culver a bit over-the-top. Tom Beaumont’s story for the Des Moines Register is here. Kay Henderson’s liveblog for Radio Iowa is here. She’s captured more quotes from the vice president.

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One simple question, three non-answers on marriage

Everyone who moderates a debate this year could learn from the journalists who guided the May 1 Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidates’ debate: Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Paul Yeager of Iowa Public Television, and Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio. Too many journalists ask long-winded questions that are easy to evade, or ask about hot topics of no lasting importance, or ask about policies outside the scope of the office the candidates are seeking.

In contrast, almost every question the panelists asked during Saturday’s debate was direct and addressed an issue the next governor of Iowa will face. Here are a few examples:

“Can you name one service government provides today that it should stop providing in the interest of saving the budget?”

“If elected, will you continue to support the Iowa Values Fund, the business grant and loan program created during the Vilsack administration, and also the renewable energy grant program established by Governor Culver known as the Iowa Power Fund?”

“Is there a role that government should play in limiting premium increases by Iowa insurance companies?”

“Do you believe that obesity is a problem that should be addressed through government action such as limiting unhealthy ingredients in food?”

Mind you, asking a direct, unambiguous question doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a straight answer from a politician. Look what happened when Dorman asked the Republicans, “Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?”

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Yet another poll shows Iowans not eager to ban gay marriage

This week’s Research 2000 poll of 600 likely Iowa voters for KCCI-TV included a couple of questions related to the rights of same-sex couples:

QUESTION: As you may know, same-sex marriages have been legal in Iowa for over a year. Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment which would over turn current law allowing same sex marriages in Iowa?

YES NO NOT SURE

ALL 39% 42% 19%

MEN 43% 40% 17%

WOMEN 35% 44% 21%

DEMOCRATS 22% 64% 14%

REPUBLICANS 66% 13% 21%

INDEPENDENTS 33% 45% 22%

QUESTION: Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriages, do you favor or oppose allowing same-sex couples the same benefits allowed to heterosexual couples, known as civil unions?

FAVOR OPPOSE NOT SURE

ALL 51% 40% 9%

MEN 47% 44% 9%

WOMEN 55% 36% 9%

DEMOCRATS 77% 21% 2%

REPUBLICANS 16% 68% 16%

INDEPENDENTS 55% 35% 10%

Less than a year after the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, a slight plurality of Iowans would not support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Among independents, a plurality oppose a constitutional amendment and a strong majority would support equal rights for same-sex couples in the form of civil unions. Even among Republican respondents, just two-thirds supported banning gay marriage.

Research 2000’s results are similar to the findings of a statewide poll Selzer and Co. conducted for the Des Moines Register last September. In that survey, 41 percent of respondents said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 40 percent would vote against such an amendment. In addition, 92 percent of respondents said marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples had led to “no real change” in their own lives.

In the most recent Des Moines Register poll, conducted less than a month ago, more than 60 percent of respondents said gay marriage “does not deserve the [Iowa] Legislature’s limited time” this session.

Iowa conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart has complained that the Des Moines Register asked the wrong question two polls in a row. He thinks pollsters ought to ask Iowans whether citizens should be able to vote on a definition of marriage. The Iowa Republican blog commissioned a poll asking that question last summer and found that 67 percent of respondents said yes. However, that Republican poll conveniently failed to ask respondents whether they would support or oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Last week Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate defeated Republican efforts to force a floor vote on a marriage amendment. Although GOP candidates and interest groups will push their “let us vote” campaign this fall, I am less and less worried about the marriage issue hurting Democrats in the 2010 statehouse elections. Economic issues will be far more important to voters.

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