In December the Sioux City Council tabled a resolution defining marriage as between a man and a woman in order to seek an opinion from the Iowa Attorney General's office on the legality of such a measure.
On Monday night, however, three of the five City Council members got tired of waiting for the opinion and passed the resolution in a packed room. The other two council members voted no because local authorities lack legal standing on this issue, but according to the Sioux City Journal, they emphasized that they do not support same-sex marriage.
The resolution has no legal force, and I find it ironic that the self-styled crusaders against "judicial activism" want to use local government to weigh in on a matter outside its jurisdiction. Supporters of the resolution note that it asks the state legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to oppose same-sex marriage. City councils have often requested legislative action on this or that issue.
Those who support same-sex marriage need to be ready for a lot more battles like this if the Iowa Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the Varnum v Brien case later this year. The religious right will lean hard on local officials and state legislators to demand a constitutional amendment. We will need to persuade not only elected officials, but also our friends and relatives who may eventually vote on the matter.
One Iowa executive director Carolyn Jenison is absolutely right to call the Sioux City Council's resolution "divisive, demeaning, and shameful" as well as "mean-spirited."
I also think ridicule can be a potent weapon, as Sioux City resident Brian Vakulskas demonstrated with a comment posted on the front page of the Sioux City Journal's website:
Every time I swerve to miss a pothole in Sioux City, I take solace in the fact that the City Council has defined marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman.
Daily Kos user Lava20 recently posted some tips on how to talk with opponents of gay marriage.
There are of course no guarantees that the Iowa Supreme Court will permit same-sex marriage, but I am hopeful that the ruling will be favorable. Even if the religious right and their allies manage to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, I am hopeful that the effort can be defeated. Once people realize that the sky didn't fall because some couples made their lifetime commitments official, the public backlash against gay marriage will be limited.
For your times they are a-changin' file, I offer this story. A couple of weeks ago I ran into two women who recently became engaged, anticipating a favorable outcome in Varnum v Brien. (They have been together for a long time.) They have started looking at wedding dresses, and while shopping around they stopped in a store in a relatively small city (population under 30,000, and not a liberal college town). Apparently the main reaction of the shop owner there was, "Cha-ching! Two dresses!"
I believe the majority of Iowans will accept gay marriage within a few years if it becomes legal.