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marriage equality

Weekend open thread: Hostile environments

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 28, 2015 at 13:17:27 PM CDT

I was planning to compile presidential candidate reactions to this week's two big U.S. Supreme Court decisions for the weekend thread, but this disturbing feature for the Kansas City Star derailed my plans. Jason Hancock and Steve Kraske report on a pervasive hostile work environment for women at the Missouri Capitol. I've posted a few excerpts below, but you need to click through and read the whole piece, which explores the toxic culture fueling the harassment and lack of accountability.

Too many women working at the Iowa statehouse have had similar experiences. I've heard some appalling stories in private communications, and no, it's not a partisan problem. My impression is that over the last 15 to 20 years, the work environment at the Capitol in Des Moines has improved, and sexual harassment is no longer as prevalent for Iowa legislative staffers as it is in Jefferson City, Missouri. That said, if even half of what Kirsten Anderson alleged in court filings is true, the culture at the Iowa statehouse is far from where it needs to be.

For a politically-engaged young person starting a career, there can hardly be a more exciting job than working in a state legislature. I feel physically ill thinking of how many women have had powerful men ruin these potentially enriching experiences. Harassment can cause severe emotional trauma. One former Missouri legislative staffer told the Kansas City Star, "The best thing that ever happened to me was getting another job and leaving that building." Hardly any of the perpetrators faced real consequences for their unethical (and in some cases illegal) conduct toward female interns or legislative employees.

Speaking of hostile environments, many social conservatives appear to be hunkering down in a siege mentality following Friday's Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. I am continually baffled to see how opinion leaders on the Christian right are so eager to view themselves as persecuted minorities. No church will be forced to officiate or recognize a same-sex marriage, any more than the Catholic Church has been forced to marry people who had civil divorces over the last five decades.

Some of the over-the-top reactions to the marriage ruling are laughable. But when you think about it, how unhealthy to convince yourself and your followers that religious Americans are now "vulnerable." Christian martyrdom is still a tragic reality in some parts of the world, but fomenting paranoid ideas about the fate of American conservatives doesn't benefit anyone. Check that: I can see how some people and corporations could profit from spreading fear that Christians are about to be persecuted on a mass scale and "Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country."

Having spent most of my life in metro areas where my fellow Jews made up less than 1 percent of the population, I've wondered what it would have been like to live in a larger Jewish community as a child. But one huge plus about growing up in Iowa was learning at an early age that the whole world wasn't ever going to validate my religious perspective, nor did I need the mass culture to approve and promote my beliefs. I encourage disappointed social conservatives to learn that life lesson sooner rather than later.

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Iowa reaction to Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jun 27, 2015 at 06:42:23 AM CDT

In a 5-4 decision announced Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states and ordered state governments to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges, joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Each of the dissenting justices wrote a separate opinion; all are available in this pdf file after Kennedy's opinion. Amy Howe explained the majority opinion in "Plain English" while Lyle Denniston posted a brief analysis.

Follow me after the jump for Iowa reaction on both sides of the marriage debate. Two years ago, Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa politicians' comments on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriages but left state bans intact.

As a group, Iowa Democratic politicians are more enthusiastic and less cautious about welcoming marriage equality now than was the case in 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state's Defense of Marriage Act. Many Iowa Republicans called for elected officials to overturn the 2009 Varnum v Brien ruling by passing a constitutional amendment, but reacting to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, few in the Iowa GOP sounded hopeful that there was any chance to reinstate state bans on same-sex marriage.

I will update this post as needed.  

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines pride and GOP clown car edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 17, 2015 at 10:57:51 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

According to Gallup's latest well-being survey of people in the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, residents of the Des Moines metro area "are the most likely to say they are proud of their community," with some 76.5 percent of central Iowa respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with a statement about community pride. Gallup's write-up noted a correlation between that sentiment and feeling "safe and secure." A remarkable 85.7 percent of Des Moines area respondents said they "always feel safe and secure," a higher level than in any other metro area Gallup surveyed.

Washington Post reporter Philip Bump speculated, "The two proudest cities are in Iowa and S.C., because people love being fawned over by politicians." I really don't think so.

In the past few years, at least three dozen lists measuring quality of life or economic factors have put the Des Moines area in the top five or ten communities nationwide. Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has raved about some of the amenities our metro has to offer. Having lived in a couple of great American cities and a couple of great European cities, I moved back to the Des Moines area for the long haul. Although I am way more politically engaged than the average person, I wouldn't factor presidential candidate visits into a decision on where to raise my children.

Speaking of being fawned over by politicians, eleven declared or potential contenders for the presidency spoke at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Dinner last night. Three declared candidates missed the event (former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz), as did at least a couple of others who are considering the presidential race (Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie). A dozen or more candidates will likely crowd the stage at GOP primary debates. My thoughts about the Lincoln Dinner speakers are coming in a future post. Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson wrote a good piece for the Washington Post on Republican insiders' growing anxiety about their large presidential field. Their sources included a heavyweight hated by many Iowa conservatives:

We're in a danger zone," said Doug Gross, a top Republican establishment figure in Iowa. "When the party poobahs put this process together, they thought they could telescope this to get us a nominee who could appeal to a broad cross-section of people. What we've got instead is a confederation of a lot of candidates who aren't standing out - and in order to stand out, you need to scream the loudest."

Speaking of people who stand out by screaming loudly, Representative Steve King posted a picture of himself yesterday with Dick and Betty Odgaard, who (in his words) were "targeted by LGBT activists/litigated out of 1man/1woman wedding business." False. Here's what really happened after the Odgaards refused to let a gay couple rent the Görtz Haus in Grimes for a wedding.  

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Weekend open thread, with more marriage equality links

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 03, 2015 at 13:07:10 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Marriage equality has been all over the news, with the sixth anniversary of legal same-sex marriage in Iowa arriving the same week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments related to state bans on marriage for LGBT couples. The Des Moines Register published charts showing Iowa poll findings on same-sex marriage going back to 1996. In that year, the Iowa House and Senate approved the Defense of Marriage Act, which the state Supreme Court struck down in the 2009 Varnum v Brien decision. Then State Representative Ed Fallon was the only Iowa lawmaker to vote against the DOMA; click here to read his passionate floor speech against the bill. I've posted excerpts after the jump.

The Washington Post compiled five charts showing "gay marriage's road to popularity." The most fascinating data point to me was that 34 percent of Republican respondents in an April 2015 nationwide Washington Post/ABC News poll now support marriage equality. Another chart shows that "Same-sex marriage attitudes also continue to be divided along religious lines." That data set did not include Jews, however, who overwhelmingly support marriage equality.

Today's Sunday Des Moines Register includes two good features by Mike Kilen following up on the six couples who were plaintiffs in the Varnum case. In a separate piece, Bob Vander Plaats and State Senator Dennis Guth told Kilen why they still believe it was a mistake to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger believes the decline in Republican voter registrations in his state is linked to "divisive battle over Proposition 8," a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. California voters approved Prop 8 by ballot initiative in 2008, but it ceased to be in effect in June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 supporters did not have standing to appeal a lower-court ruling striking down the marriage ban.

Final note: Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines approved a request by a group of students to form a non-religious LGBT support club. The school recently made national news by withdrawing a contract offer made to an openly gay teacher. The new gay-straight alliance, "One Human Family," will help provide "support, respect, and guidance" for students who either identify as LGBT or have questions about their sexual orientation.  

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Ten links on the Supreme Court's oral arguments about same-sex marriage

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 28, 2015 at 20:46:42 PM CDT

The U.S. Supreme Court heard two and a half hours of oral arguments this morning in several cases related to same-sex marriage rights, collectively called Obergefell v. Hodges. This thread is for any relevant comments or speculation.

April 27 marked six years since LGBT couples were able to obtain marriage licenses in Iowa under our state Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling. Bleeding Heartland recently compiled some links related to the marriage equality battle in Iowa.

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Weekend open thread: Latest Steve King publicity stunt edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 09:48:19 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Iowa's own Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) grabbed national attention this week by introducing a bill to "prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases," thereby stopping the U.S. Supreme Court from "destroying traditional marriage." After the jump I've posted King's official statement about the "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act" as well as the full text.

President Barack Obama would surely veto this bill, even if it quickly passed the U.S. House (unlikely) and Senate (less likely). So King's effort looks like a publicity stunt to bolster his image as one of the leading culture warriors on the right.

Out of curiosity, I asked Drake Law School Professor Mark Kende, an expert on constitutional law, whether it would theoretically be possible for Congress to limit the Supreme Court's authority to consider any case on marriage. According to Kende, the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to "make exceptions to the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction." Most Congressional efforts along these lines have failed to become law. However, a 19th-century precedent exists; in that case, Congress blocked the Supreme Court from ruling on an appeal in which justices had already heard oral arguments.

Whether King's proposal would be constitutional is a more complicated question, Kende said. The Reconstruction-era law blocked a specific kind of appeal based on habeas corpus but did not bar the Supreme Court from ruling on all cases in that area of the law. The Constitution allows some leeway for "jurisdiction stripping" as a Congressional check on the judiciary, but that doesn't necessarily mean citizens could be prevented from taking any case about their fundamental marriage rights to the Supreme Court.

In an alternate universe where Congress passed and the president signed King's bill, the twelve federal appellate court rulings would be binding in their regions. Most federal court rulings on same-sex marriage bans have supported the principle of marriage equality. Only a divided 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld states' ability to limit marriage rights to opposite-sex couples.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa marriage equality anniversary edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 05, 2015 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

Happy Passover or Happy Easter to all who are celebrating this weekend. In past years Bleeding Heartland has posted links about those religious holidays. For today's open thread, I'm reflecting on the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling, announced on April 3, 2009.

Lambda Legal, which represented the Varnum plaintiffs, published a timeline of the case. The LGBT advocacy group filed the lawsuit in December 2005, banking on the Iowa Supreme Court's "extraordinary history" of independence and "civil rights leadership."

If Iowa lawmakers had approved a state constitutional amendment on marriage, the Varnum case might never have been filed (in anticipation of Iowans approving a ban on same-sex marriage, as voters had done in many other states). But during the 2004 legislative session, the marriage amendment failed by one vote in the upper chamber, thanks to the united Senate Democratic caucus, joined by GOP senators Maggie Tinsman, Don Redfern, Mary Lundby, and Doug Shull. All four Republican moderates had left the legislature by the time the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Varnum. Redfern retired in 2004. Tinsman lost her 2006 primary to a social conservative challenger. Shull retired from the Senate in 2006 and unsuccessfully sought a seat in the state House that year. Lundby retired from the legislature in 2008 and passed away the following year.  

Reading through the early Democratic and Republican reaction to the Varnum decision should make all Iowa Democrats proud. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and former House Speaker Pat Murphy deserve credit for their leadership at a time when some Democrats would have run for cover on an issue perceived to be unpopular. Minority civil rights should never be conditional on majority approval.

As for the Republicans in the Bleeding Heartland community, you can be proud that your party's state legislators seem less and less interested in fighting the losing battle to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Three of the seven justices who concurred in Varnum v Brien (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker, and Justice Michael Streit) lost their jobs in Iowa's 2010 retention elections. Justice David Wiggins survived a campaign against his retention in 2012. The remaining three justices who concurred in the decision are up for retention in 2016: Chief Justice Mark Cady (author of the ruling), Justice Daryl Hecht, and Justice Brent Appel. It's not yet clear whether Bob Vander Plaats and his fellow-travellers will make a serious effort to remove them, or whether they will give up in the face of Iowans' growing acceptance of marriage equality.

The LGBT advocacy group One Iowa holds an annual gala around the anniversary of the Varnum ruling. Last night the group honored Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum and Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu, among others. I enclose below a statement from the group marking six years since gay and lesbian couples won the freedom to marry in Iowa.

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Four reasons the Iowa caucuses will be a rude awakening for Ted Cruz

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 23, 2015 at 18:28:32 PM CDT

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas officially launched his presidential campaign this morning. Click here to watch his speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University or here to read the transcript.

As an outsider candidate, Cruz will need a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses to have any hope of becoming the last man standing against the establishment favorite for the GOP nomination. I don't see that happening.  

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Steve King doesn't understand American Jews. The feeling is mutual

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 22, 2015 at 20:19:27 PM CDT

Representative Steve King is making national news again, but in a new twist, for offensive comments about Jews rather than Latinos.

Speaking to Boston Herald radio on Friday, King said, "I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president." Over the weekend, apparently unaware that he had just validated a classic anti-Semitic trope about divided Jewish loyalties, King claimed that he was defending Israelis.

As my grandmother might have said, what King doesn't know about Jews could fill a book. But after reflecting on the matter, I realized that King's worldview is just as inexplicable to a typical American Jewish Democrat as mine is to him.

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Same-sex marriage ban dies without a whimper in Iowa House

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

Following up on this post from last month, the latest version of a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman in Iowa is dead for this legislative session. House Joint Resolution 4 didn't make it so far as a subcommittee hearing, let alone passage by a full committee before the "funnel" deadline late last week.

Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Chip Baltimore never assigned the bill to any subcommittee. When I asked him about the status of the bill on February 24 (a month after the bill was introduced), Baltimore's response was telling.

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Fewer Iowa Senate Republicans eager to ban same-sex marriage

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 23, 2015 at 11:08:08 AM CST

Ever since I saw how few Iowa House Republicans are still co-sponsoring a state constitutional amendment on marriage, I've been watching and waiting for Republicans in the state Senate to introduce their version of the same legislation. Any effort to overturn marriage equality will be a dead letter in the Iowa Senate as long as Democrats maintain their majority. Nevertheless, I was curious to see how many (or few) Republican senators are still willing to stand up and be counted on this issue.

Late last week, State Senator Dennis Guth, one of the leading social conservatives in the chamber, finally introduced Senate Joint Resolution 6, "specifying marriage between one man and one woman as the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state." Just eleven of the 24 Republicans are co-sponsoring this amendment. That's a significant drop from two years ago, when three-quarters of the Iowa Senate GOP caucus co-sponsored the marriage amendment.

Looking more closely at who is and is not "loud and proud" about taking rights away from LGBT couples, some patterns emerge.

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Weekend open thread: Love and marriage equality edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 15, 2015 at 15:21:03 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I'm not big on "Hallmark holidays," but if Valentine's Day (or "co-opting Valentine's Day") is your thing, I hope you enjoyed February 14. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I wanted to catch up on news from a couple of weeks ago, which may continue to reverberate during the Republican Iowa caucus campaign. The owners of Görtz Haus agreed to settle with a gay couple who had wanted to get married at their venue in Grimes. Betty and Richard Odgaard are Mennonites who don't believe in same-sex marriage. Since the law doesn't allow them to discriminate against LGBT couples, they have decided not to hold any weddings at their place of business. They also dropped their own doomed-to-fail lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Clips with background on the episode and reaction to its resolution are after the jump.

Social conservatives are outraged over what they see as an assault on religious freedom. Both talk radio host Steve Deace and Bob Vander Plaats' organization The FAMiLY Leader have indicated that the Görtz Haus controversy will be a salient issue in the coming presidential campaign.

What these folks can't acknowledge is that no one is forcing the Odgaards or anyone else to approve of or "celebrate" gay weddings. Many of us have ethical or religious objections to some marriages; for instance, if the couple began dating while married to other people, or if one person appears to be marrying solely for money, or if there is a large age gap between the spouses. Plenty of Jews and Christians would disapprove of my own interfaith marriage. No one is demanding that the whole world applaud every marriage, only that the religious beliefs of some don't interfere with the civil rights of others.

Additionally, it's important to note that no house of worship in Iowa has ever been forced to hold same-sex weddings. If the Odgaards ran a church, they would be fully within their rights to refuse to serve LGBT couples. Görtz Haus is a for-profit business, subject to the same civil rights statutes as other public venues.  

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Iowa House Republicans accept marriage equality but can't admit it yet

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 12, 2015 at 15:10:25 PM CST

Four years ago, Republicans rushed to pass a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman within weeks of regaining control of the Iowa House. Every member of the GOP caucus was on the same page.

Two years ago, the marriage amendment failed to come up for a vote in the Iowa House, but a majority of Republican lawmakers still co-sponsored the legislation.

Now, signs point to Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Chip Baltimore letting the marriage amendment die quietly, as he did in 2013. Fewer than a quarter of the 57 House Republicans signed on to the latest effort to turn back the clock on marriage rights. At the same time, only one GOP lawmaker is "loud and proud" about supporting the right of all Iowans to marry the person they love.

Follow me after the jump for a breakdown of where Iowa House Republicans stand on the "traditional marriage" amendment, and speculation on why so many of them aren't trying to pass it anymore, even though they ostensibly don't support LGBT marriage rights.  

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Four reasons Mike Gronstal will win another term in Iowa Senate district 8

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 02, 2015 at 09:07:00 AM CST

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal celebrated his 65th birthday on January 29. The Des Moines Register's William Petroski caught up with Gronstal after fellow senators sang "Happy Birthday" and confirmed that the longtime Democratic leader has no plans to retire. He's up for re-election next year in Senate district 8, covering the Council Bluffs area and Carter Lake (scroll to the end of this post to view a detailed map).

Now that Tom Harkin has retired, Gronstal may be the Iowa Democrat whom Republicans most love to hate. But I have news for them: he's going to win another term in 2016, and here's why.

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End of the road for opponents of marriage equality? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 16:15:47 PM CDT

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, justices side-stepped the issue of state bans on same-sex marriage, either by statute or by constitution. Since that time, various U.S. Courts of Appeal have struck down state-level bans, using reasoning similar to the high court's in U.S. v. Windsor. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not hear appeals of five such rulings. As Adam Liptak reported for the New York Times, the move "may signal the inevitability of a nationwide right to same-sex marriage."

The development, a major surprise, cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Officials in Virginia announced that marriages would start at 1 p.m. on Monday.

The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will almost immediately increase the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24, along with the District of Columbia. The impact of the move will in short order be even broader.

Monday's orders let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts with jurisdiction over six other states that ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those appeals courts will almost certainly follow their own precedents to strike down those additional bans as well, meaning the number of states with same-sex marriage should soon climb to 30. [...]

Other appeals courts are likely to rule soon on yet other marriage bans, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. That court has jurisdiction over nine states. If it rules in favor of same-sex marriage, as expected, it is unlikely to enter a stay, and, given Monday's developments at the Supreme Court, there is no particular reason to think the justices will.

It's all over but the shouting. And speaking of shouting, I've enclosed below the reaction to today's news from the FAMiLY Leader organization, which spearheaded the backlash against the Iowa Supreme Court over its 2009 decision in Varnum v Brien. No Iowa Supreme Court justices are up for retention this year. The remaining three justices who were part of the Varnum ruling will be up for retention in 2016: Chief Justice Mark Cady (author of that unanimous decision), Justice Brent Appel, and Justice Daryl Hecht.

The Alliance for Justice has compiled details on every federal court ruling related to marriage equality here. That organization's president, Nan Aron, said in a statement today, "It is disappointing that the Supreme Court declined to take any of the marriage equality cases decided by federal appeals courts.  In 2013, in its decisions on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and on Proposition 8, the Supreme Court began to bend the arc of history toward justice on this issue. By declining to take these cases, the Court passed up an opportunity to finish the job."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not going to fight against marriage equality in Wisconsin anymore. Accepting reality may work against him if he runs in the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses.

SECOND UPDATE: I've enclosed below a statement from Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair Cody Hoefert. I am intrigued that Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann doesn't seem interested in speaking out on this issue anymore. In 2011, he voted for a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Kaufmann retired in 2012, and his son Bobby Kaufmann was elected to succeed him in the Iowa House. Bobby Kaufmann declined to co-sponsor a marriage amendment in 2013.  

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Des Moines ranked 4th most LGBT-friendly metro area in U.S.

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CDT

Hardly a month goes by without news about Des Moines scoring a top-ten national ranking on some economic or livability metric. Here's something I didn't expect, though: the new "Vocativ Queer Index" rates the Des Moines metro fourth among the top 35 queer-friendly cities in the U.S.

Vocativ examined the 100 largest metro areas on sixteen factors related to the quality of life for the LGBT community. Click through to read the full list and how Des Moines scored in each category. In particular, the website hailed the Iowa capital's "inclusive attitude toward adoption and marriage equality, not to mention its high-profile out politicians" like State Senator Matt McCoy and State Representative Daniel Lundby (whom they mistook for a member of Congress).  

Happy Pride Month to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community. After the jump I've posted recent news about how Iowa Safe Schools, a Des Moines-based advocacy group, is working to improve the environment for LGBTQ students in public schools all around the state.

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More background on Iowa GOP platform dispute on marriage

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 09:29:00 AM CDT

Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee member David Chung wrote a must-read post at his Hawkeye GOP blog about Saturday's dispute over marriage language in the first district Iowa GOP platform. Excerpt:

In the platform committee multiple attempts to add a pro-marriage plank failed. [Liberty faction State Central Committee member] Tony [Krebsbach] only proposed the government-out-of-marriage plank because he did not want the platform to be silent on the issue. In the committee, Tony wanted a pro-marriage plank included. So in the committee (and on the convention floor) he wanted a pro-marriage plank to appear in the platform as it has for several years. As a compromise, he proposed the current plank taking the more libertarian position.

The floor votes happened because somehow the "government-out-of-marriage plank did not make it into the printed version of the proposed platform that was distributed to delegates." Three times IA-01 delegates rejected amendments that would have restored language opposing same-sex marriage rights. Eventually the wording about keeping the government out of marriage was added to the platform.

Delegates to the statewide GOP convention are not ready for a real debate on marriage equality yet, but it will happen by 2018 or 2020 at the latest. Chung is committed to making sure the statewide party platform includes a "one man, one woman marriage" plank, even though he recognizes that "traditional marriage is probably a losing issue today" and "is one of the biggest issues that keeps young people out of the Republican Party." At some point a critical mass of party activists will get tired of fighting this battle.

Meanwhile, the governor's office is trying to straddle the fence.

"The governor and lieutenant governor believe in traditional one-man and one-woman marriage," spokesman Jimmy Centers told the Register. "(They) do not try to influence or counsel delegates on what planks they should or should not offer and support."

So they agree with social conservative activists on "traditional marriage," but they don't care whether the Republican platform reflects that position? Doesn't make a lot of sense. But then, they've never been coherent on this issue. In 2010, Branstad's campaign spokesman had to backpedal fast after the candidate indicated he had no problem with gay couples adopting children. Soon after Reynolds joined the ticket, she got in trouble for comments indicating support for civil unions.

UPDATE: Added more Republican reaction below.

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Weekend open thread: Big Iowa GOP changes

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 10:10:00 AM CDT

The Republican Party of Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party held district conventions yesterday. Nothing particularly important happened at the Democratic conventions, but the GOP gatherings continued the march toward overthrowing the "Liberty" faction that gained control soon after the 2012 caucuses. No one from the Ron Paul orbit won a seat on the newly-elected State Central Committee, which will take over after the party's state convention in June. They are likely to replace Danny Carroll and Gopal Krishna in the party's top leadership positions.

I've listed the new State Central Committee members after the jump. Notable names include Governor Terry Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley and William Gustoff, both elected to represent the third district. Gustoff is a partner in the law firm headed by U.S. Senate candidate Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. In 2011, Branstad named Gustoff to the State Judicial Nominating Commission, but the Iowa Senate did not confirm him. Findley briefly was an attorney with Whitaker Hagenow after she left Representative Steve King's staff to run for Iowa attorney general in 2010.

According to Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog, "Liberty" activists handed out flyers at all four district conventions urging delegates not to vote for fourteen State Central Committee candidates. All fourteen of them won seats on the committee anyway.

Another interesting development: the GOP platform committee in the first district removed the plank declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman. Katherine Klingseis reported for The Des Moines Register that the new platform language asserts the government should have no role in marriage. Some delegates tried and failed three times yesterday to restore the traditional marriage plank through amendments. UPDATE: According to conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, one of the IA-01 convention votes on platform language went 116 to 89 to remove so-called "defense of traditional marriage" from the district GOP platform.

Kathie Obradovich wrote up the six IA-03 candidates' pitches to Republican convention delegates. For now I consider it more likely than not that the nomination will be decided at a special district convention.

UPDATE: More thoughts on the Iowa GOP State Central Committee changes after the jump.

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Iowa marriage equality five-year anniversary thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:40:00 AM CDT

Five years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision in Varnum v Brien, striking down our state's Defense Of Marriage Act. Some Democratic politicians welcomed the change, while others were more circumspect or ducked the issue for a few days. The early Iowa Republican reaction to the court ruling will sound more pathetic and cowardly with each passing year.

At this point I can't see any realistic path for conservatives to undo marriage equality. Even if Republicans held their Iowa House majority and gained control of the state Senate (which I consider unlikely), passing a constitutional amendment in both chambers in two separately elected legislatures would be a heavy lift. Last year and this year, an amendment to ban same-sex marriages didn't even make it through committee in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.

Bob Vander Plaats spent most of 2009 and 2010 trying to take rights away from same-sex couples and force justices off the Iowa Supreme Court. Five years ago today, he was the front-runner in the GOP race for governor. Now he's out hawking a book. His standing among Iowa Republicans has fallen so far that he is essentially invisible in the Congressional campaign of Robert Cramer, a guy who donated $30,000 to "Team Vander Plaats" during the 2010 election cycle.

Somehow my hetero union has survived five years of sharing rights with Iowa's LGBT couples. And it's not just my marriage soldiering on: the latest statistics show Iowa's divorce rate at its lowest point since 1968. Several factors account for the trend, including the high cost of divorce and more couples delaying or forgoing marriage. Regardless, it's nice to see the divorce rate falling, because if the trend were going the other way you can be sure self-styled "marriage defenders" would blame the "homosexual agenda," among other things.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Highlights from the latest Des Moines Register poll findings on gay marriage are after the jump.

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Political April Fool's thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 09:51:40 AM CDT

I've never been a fan of April Fool's pranks or the April Fool's Day fake news genre, but my friend Mark Lambert gave me permission to share this story. It made me smile. He was an administrative law judge at the time in the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. Like many state employees, he worked in the Wallace Building near the Capitol.

In 2010, Mark took State of Iowa letterhead and added "Iowa Civil Rights Commission" in a realistic-looking font on it. He got to work before 6 am and hung signs on all the bathroom doors in the Wallace Building saying that due to a new interpretation by the Iowa Supreme Court, gender-specific restrooms were considered a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the Iowa Constitution, and that all restrooms would now be unisex. "We realize this will take some time before you feel comfortable, but we are confident you will get used to it. In the mean time, please be considerate of your co-workers." He figured some people would fall for the joke, because this was only a year after the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien decision on marriage.

All of the signs were taken down by 8:30 am, but still--a pretty good April Fool's prank.

Share any relevant memories in this thread. I wonder which Iowa candidates and elected officials will circulate a fake press release or pull off some publicity stunt today.

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