Five Years Later -- Bedrock

Historic Varnum ruling came 5 years ago today.

Todd Dorman
Published: April 3 2014 | 3:03 pm - Updated: 7 April 2014 | 3:09 pm in

I've been caught up in casino madness all day, but I wanted to say something about the fifth anniversary of the Varnum v. Brien ruling that struck down Iowa's ban on same-sex marriages.

The tweet above was the one I sent at 8:39 a.m. on April 3, 2009, while standing outside the Iowa Judicial Building. I had a feeling that's the way the ruling would go down. So I typed it and waited. My "tweet" finger at the ready.


Some kids on the pro-equality side had gone into the building to try for a hard copy of the ruling. When one of them bounded out of the door, smiling and waving the ruling over his head, I let that tweet free. It was all the confirmation I needed.

Later, I had to figure out what to write. This is part of what I came up with:

Five years later, I think we've got ourselves some bedrock. That doesn't mean all challenges are over or opposition has disappeared into thin air. Clearly, that's not the case.

But the idea of turning back this ruling, and the clock, with a state constitutional amendment is dead.  And, judging by all the federal judging going on lately, we may not be very far from the day when the entire nation moves forward, for good.

Marriage politics has undergone a remarkable transformation in Iowa, and it's been pulled along by a social transformation. Five years ago, the Democratic governor hid out for days before finally welcoming the Varnum ruling. Republicans opponents of equality saw their position as a clear political winner.

Now, most Democrats campaign openly and loudly for marriage equality, while a growing number of Republicans are either in favor of same-sex marriage or are counseling GOP candidates to stop banging the drum against it.  Twice, efforts to take the Iowa Senate seats needed to push an amendment forward came up short. The slice of public opinion opposed to equality is narrowing, while support grows.

And a lot of this change has bubbled up from Iowans who have seen the reality of marriage equality in their towns and neighborhoods and families. And that reality isn't disruptive or scary, like critics of the ruling predicted five years ago.  Instead, it's become a point of pride for Iowa.

And, better yet, this extraordinary civil rights win has become ordinary. So ordinary, that I almost forgot about the anniversary.

And it's passing with no protesters in the streets, loud chants or judge buses rolling down the roads. Instead, we can simply, quietly marvel at all that's been achieved since that sunny morning in April.

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