Iowa Republican State Senator Merlin Bartz is raising the bar for pettiness among self-styled defenders of "traditional marriage."
His latest target: a new rule proposed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which would broaden the definition of "immediate family" for those using state-run campsites to include guardians and domestic partners.
Bartz thinks the Iowa legislature, which is only in session three months a year, should be micromanaging administrative decisions like this one:
The rates or fees for camp sites are the same, whether you're a family or a non-family, but the state allows families to put up more than one tent on a camp site. "They're changing their language even though the state legislature has not had a debate on this particular issue," Bartz says.
Bartz is a member of the Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee which meets on Monday [May 10]. He's asked D.N.R. officials to explain their proposal at that meeting. Bartz says he wants to be "vigilant" and keep state agencies from writing rules that extend new benefits to gay couples. "A lot of the advocates of gay marriage in Iowa have said, 'It doesn't affect anything. Nothing has changed,'" Bartz says. "The reality of it is that everything is changing."
Oh no! It wasn't enough for the Iowa homosexuals to co-opt Valentine's Day, now they will be able to use campgrounds like other families. When the Republican candidates for Iowa governor struggled to cite a "tangible way Iowa has been harmed" by marriage equality, they clearly weren't thinking outside the box like Bartz. What others see as acknowledging reality about the diversity of Iowa families, Bartz views as an "insidious pattern" by state agencies.
Bartz, who happens to be on his second marriage, made the news last April by using his official website to promote the Iowa Family Policy Center's petition drive, which urged county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bartz also tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation giving county recorders a free pass to discriminate. I suspect his crusade against the DNR's rule-making will fail too, because the Iowa legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee includes six Democrats and only four Republicans. But Bartz will carry on:
One of the things that I promised my constituents is that I would be a defender of traditional marriage in the state of Iowa, and that was actually before the Supreme Court decision [on marriage rights]. [...]
I will continue to be vigilant and watch for this kind of thing as the executive branch agencies promulgate their rules.
Somehow I doubt Bartz's constituents will be impressed by the brave fight against letting gay couples pitch more than one tent at a campsite.
Pulling up links for this diary reminded me that last April, Bartz publicly worried that a flood of same-sex couples from nearby Minnesota would inundate the recorder's office in his home county. As it turned out, just 44 marriage licenses were issued in Worth County from April 27, 2009 through the end of last year. Of those, ten licenses went to same-sex couples, and six went to couples who did not specify their gender on the application. I'm guessing the Worth County recorder didn't collapse under that crushing workload. The statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health do not indicate how many couples came from across the border in Minnesota.