Last week, at Wednesday night’s Senate District 18 forum, time ran out before either Chris Earl or I could ask the candidates about same-sex marriage. One guy in the audience as so unhappy that, after the debate ended, he began yelling demands that the candidates address the issue. I heard from others, using inside voices, who also couldn’t believe we didn’t ask about it.
Today, Republican Cindy Golding and Democrat Liz Mathis met with our editorial board. And they were asked about the marriage issue. So, for you, yelling man, outside agitators and anyone else interested, here’s what was said.
Q — Do you believe that Iowa voters should determine whether or not the state constitution should declare that marriage should be between a man and a woman?
Mathis — “I think we’ve both answered that, three, four, five, six times or something. And a couple of times by your two reporters. So, I’ll say it again. Iowa should not discriminate. I don’t believe in discrimination. I believe in the Iowa State Supreme Court, their unanimous ruling, appellate ruling on gay marriage. Varnum v. Brien is constitutionally sound. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Golding — “And I have said very clearly that I believe that the citizens of Iowa should vote on this issue. We are in the spotlight and continue to be in the spotlight on an issue that we chose not to be there. The Legislature voted on a bill that was by representative government. I understand the bill was poorly written. It was then voted on by the judges to determine the constitutionality of that bill. And now we need to go to the people, which is the final step. And I believe that once we vote on it, whether we vote it up or down, the spotlight can come off Iowa for that issue and we can focus on business, we can focus on jobs, focus on education. We can focus on the things we really need to be taking our time and energy. Because nobody in our district, it was not a huge issue to either one of us as we were going around. It became an issue to us by the national media.”
Q — How do think the ruling has changed Iowa?
Golding — “I don’t know how the ruling has dramatically changed, but I can see changes in the schools. I am a volunteer in the high schools. And in my daughter’s high school, they have a scholarship for a gay student. And I am curious what the sexual orientation of a student should be for a scholarship in high school. That troubles me.”
Q — Is that the only criteria for the scholarship?
“Well there’s academics, but you must be a declared GLBT student in order to apply for it. That troubles me.”
Q — So if the impact hasn’t been dramatic, I guess, how do you think the state’s made better by having a referendum? It’s obviously going to be pretty contentious, pretty divisive. How is Iowa made better through that process?
Golding — “I think across the nation where the voting has come up, in those states it is contentious until the vote is done. And then regardless of whether the state voted up or voted down, the spotlight came off them. We need to take the focus off Iowa.”
Q — How has the ruling changed the state? (To Mathis)
Mathis — “I think it’s changed the state because we’re back to one-issue voting. I think there are people who are going to vote on that and vote on that only. They’re missing a chance to really be informed about a lot of other things that are very, very, very important to our economy. You know, we need to look at the economics of our state and, um, that’s what I see most. That people are putting blinders on just one issue.”
Q — So no positive change?
“A positive change in a way that people are becoming politically active, if that’s the type of politics I think that you prefer. There are people who are looking more clearly at the process and understanding and being more involved. If that’s an upside. I’m not sure if you’re looking at this issue in particular.”
Mathis went on to tell a story about an activist in Waterloo who drew attention to issues involving the school board. I don’t see much need to transcribe it.
So to recap, nobody in Senate District 18 really cares much about civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Only pesky outsiders.
We should put those rights up for a public vote as soon as possible, because the danger of denying civil rights to thousands of Iowans is nothing compared to the intense glare of the “spotlight.” And once that vote is over, the issue will go away. Yep.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruling striking down Iowa’s gay marriage ban hasn’t had much dramatic impact on Iowa. But scholarships for gay students are troubling. How the two are connected, I’m not sure.
And if there’s one positive thing about a historic civil rights victory, it’s that it makes some people get politically active, if that’s what you prefer. Maybe.
I’m feeling less than impressed.
I credit Mathis for at least saying the ruling is constitutionally sound. But how about having the guts to say that ruling also changed Iowa for the better, and that voting to overturn it would be a huge mistake and injustice? It’s not so tough.
Golding’s whole kill-the-spotlight thing is weak, especially since it’s folks on her side of the political spectrum, folks sending mailers on her behalf into the district, who are working hardest to keep those spotlights burning bright. And the notion that a vote will magically make the issue disappear underestimates considerable tenacity on both sides. Civil rights struggles don’t just end.
Is this the most important issue facing the state? No. Is it an important issue? Yes. And some people in the district do care about it. I do. The yelling man does. So that’s two. I don’t know about him, but I’m disappointed.