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GOP candidates, religion, and same-sex marriage in Iowa

COMMENTARY | December 31, 2011

Michael Gartner says Republican presidential candidates and their supporters should read Iowa’s 2½–year-old same-sex marriage ruling instead of bashing it. If they did, they would find a ringing endorsement of freedom of religion, not a rebuke or challenge to it.

By Michael Gartner

DES MOINES – Now that the campaign is ending in Iowa, here’s a question: Why have the candidates gone around the state bashing the Iowa Supreme Court decision that said persons of the same sex have the right to marry one another?

For that matter, why have their fundamentalist and evangelical supporters been bashing it?

Perhaps it’s time — after 2½ years — for those folks to read the 69-page decision. All of it.

If they do, they’ll hold it to their breasts. For Varnum v. Brien is a ringing endorsement of the freedom all of us — right and left and center and believer and non-believer and candidate and non-candidate — hold dear, the freedom of religion.

“I actually campaigned in Iowa against those justices” who were ousted after the decision, the devoutly evangelical Rick Santorum proudly said during a debate. Newt Gingrich, who lately has said that as president he would ignore court decisions he doesn’t like, helped finance Bob Vander Plaats’s campaign against the three justices who were on the ballot for an up-or-down vote in 2010.


Those justices and their brethren were eloquent in ruling that churches and religions need not embrace or condone or perform gay marriages.

“Religious objections to same-sex marriage are supported by thousands of years of tradition and biblical interpretation,” Justice Mark Cady wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion. “Much of society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained — even fundamental — religious belief.”

But, he noted, “other equally sincere groups and people in Iowa and around the nation have strong religious views that yield the opposite conclusion.”

“A government that fails to respect the dignity of every person, beginning first and foremost with his or her freedom of conscience and religious liberty, surrenders its rightful authority to govern.”

Oh, wait a minute. This paragraph isn’t from Varnum. It’s from Newt Gingrich’s proposal on Dec. 20 for a “presidential commission on religious freedom.”

Back to Justice Cady: “We, of course, have a constitutional mandate to protect the free exercise of religion in Iowa, which includes the freedom of a religious organization to define marriages it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman. This mission is consistent with our task to prevent government from endorsing any religious view. State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation. This proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state.”

“Only a society that protects the dignity of every person — his ability to believe or not to believe, to speak freely about his beliefs or to remain silent; his right to act according to the dictates of conscience; and ultimately, his acceptance of his accountability to his Creator in each of those areas — could be considered just or morally legitimate.”

Oops. That’s Gingrich again, writing just a few days after he signed an anti-gay-marriage pledge.

Consistency, of course, is not a hallmark of presidential candidates of either party, but the seekers of the Republican nomination are particularly inconsistent on the issue of gay marriage and religion. If they would read the Iowa Supreme Court decision, they would discover it to be a noble and eloquent statement on freedom of religion. Just as gays have the right to marry one another, the court said, churches have the right not to perform such marriages.

And candidates have the right to preach out against gay marriage in God’s name. “It will be an awesome day,” Michele Bachmann said about an anti-gay-marriage rally a few years ago. “We will be beseeching the Lord.”

Believing and beseeching. But not restraining and restricting.

That’s what freedom of religion is all about.

And that’s what the Varnum decision is all about.

As anyone who has read it knows.

This column also appeared in the Des Moines Register.


Liberty Yes, Equality No
Posted by RickyLee
12/31/2011, 12:36 PM

To a great extent, we Gays have myopically alienated natural supports by eschewing Lawrence v Texas which was based on Liberty and instead we have foolishly pursued a non-inalienable and a non-constitutional "right" called Equality.

Equality leads to affirmative action, to quotas and to individual rights being supplanted by Group Rights. The Right Wing seems to get very few things correct, but they know that the fundamental American value is Liberty (Freedom). [Of course, they think Liberty includes their right to trample upon everyone else's freedoms, but that is another story.]

Each person is an individual with his/her individual inalienable and constitutional rights and the government may not deny the individual his Liberties by classifying him or her into to Group and then saying "everyone is this group may not (1) join the military (2) marry whomever they wish, (3) be a teacher, (4) etc.

No individual should ever claim that he/she has any right because he/she belongs to a Group. That idea turns the law on is head. The law may not deny an individual his/her rights by placing him/her into a group and then discriminating against the entire group.

We gays would be a lot farther ahead if we had listened to Justice Kennedy in Lawrence v Texas and dropped this legal gibberish about Equality and stood on the core American value and legal right of Liberty.

Test Pilot
Posted by Al Dente
12/31/2011, 04:50 PM

A recent remark made about gays by President Obama stirred up an angry response from one well-know evangelical preacher. SHOCKING: http://www.spnheadlines.com/2010/01/furor-erupts-o ...

Posted by John
12/31/2011, 06:42 PM

I have to agree with the article. I am a gay man living in Texas and you cam imagine what it is like here. I have one thing to add though, I feel that if the churches in the US want to start using their beliefs to run the country then all of the money they have and collect needs to be taxed! We were given freedom of religion and we were promised the church and state would stay divided by the Constitution! The act that our forefathers went through and fought for and came up with provides our freedoms and in a quick and nasty way to summarize it, "clean up your own doorstep before you come cleaning mine" and "mind your own business. I don't care what my neighbor is doing in his bed our out of it and to be honest I would rather not think about it. I would like to think that what ever he is doing is pleasing to him and the person he is with. As long as he isn't hurting anyone and the party or parties are all in agreement then that is his business not MINE!

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