March 11th, 2013
09:15 AM ET

In Iowa, more support after 4 years of gay marriage

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo

Editor's Note: On March 26th and 27th, the US Supreme Court will hear two key cases regarding same-sex marriage. Every Monday and Tuesday in March, CNN Radio will feature stories about issues related to same-sex marriage.  

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(CNN) - Gay marriage has been legal in Iowa for four years. The state was the third in the country to allow same-sex couples to wed, after its supreme court ruled the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

Since then, legalized gay marriage has had no effect on the lives of most Iowans, except perhaps in altering their views on gay marriage, according to Molly Tafoya, communications director for the gay advocacy group One Iowa:

[:54] “The sky hasn’t fallen and nothing really has changed for the day-to-day. I think we’re seeing a growing acceptance among Iowans, who just see this as the new normal here.”

A poll conducted in October, 2012, found that 49 percent of Iowa voters were in favor of gay marriage, up from 41 percent just a year earlier. But legalized gay marriage is far from a universally accepted fact of life in the state. In the last few weeks, Republican legislators in both the Iowa house and senate introduced measures to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

Had Jeff Angelo still been a state senator - he left political office in 2009 - he might have been one of those Republicans. He describes himself as a conservative, and while he was in the legislature, he sponsored an unsuccessful measure to ban gay marriage. But since he left office, he’s had many conversations with gay Iowans and changed his mind on the issue:

[2:35] “Most of our small towns have people in them that are gay, and live peaceful lives. They’re not made to feel like outsiders. So what occurred to me was that the political debate didn’t really match up what was going on in Iowa communities. And that’s when I thought this is just unfair. There’s no evil force that’s out there that’s trying to destroy marriage. It was people that just wanted to fall in love, and have stable families and monogamous relationships just like I do. That’s what changed my mind.”

Angelo joined forces with One Iowa to form Iowa Republicans for Freedom, a group working to advance a conservative argument in support of gay marriage and to encourage more Republicans to join the cause.

Ken Mehlman is doing similar work on a national scale. Mehlman was the campaign manager for President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. He was also chairman of the Republican National Committee. He came out as gay in 2010, and has been making the case that conservative Republicans should support gay marriage because of their ideological beliefs in less government.

Mehlman drew headlines with a legal brief he filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in February to support overturning Proposition 8, the California gay marriage ban. The brief was signed by more than 100 Republicans, including advisors to Mitt Romney and John McCain.

But that’s national politics and does not necessarily convince politicians who have to face constituents in their districts, Jeff Angelo said:

[4:44] “A lot of Republican legislators will not go public with their support of marriage equality because they believe that they will get a primary opponent that will be heavily funded by the religious groups that do have a lot of money. In that universe of voters that is much smaller in a primary, they’re afraid they’re going to lose.”

Angelo wants to help candidates that support gay marriage to win Republican primaries in swing districts. But he faces significant opposition among conservatives.

Robert Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader, has spearheaded that opposition, as well as a successful recall effort to oust three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize gay marriage. Last year, Vander Plaats expressed the view held by many conservative legislators: the Iowa supreme court overreached:

[5:36] “The law in the books is one male one female. That’s still the law today. So Iowans didn’t do this. A court did this.”

No matter the legal arguments, a Des Moines Register poll in February found that 56 percent of Iowa voters do not support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The poll also found a wide ideological gap on the issue, with 15 percent of Democrats joining 64 percent or Republicans in support of a gay marriage ban.

To learn more about how Iowans may be shifting in their views on gay marriage, listen to our story above.

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soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. michael t

    Odd that men and women who marry are a hetrosexual couple
    Homosexuals and lesbians who marry are gay

    The power of political correctness.
    What next ? It can only be beastiality, surely

    God Bless America

    March 13, 2013 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian_Joness

      Beastiality? Are you comparing United States citizens, who happen to be gay that have all the same rights/responsibilities and protection under the law, to animals? When animals are able to consent and vote, then you still wouldn't have an argument. Apples and oranges.

      God bless America.

      March 13, 2013 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joe

    “The law in the books is one male one female. That’s still the law today. So Iowans didn’t do this. A court did this.”

    The law on the books in Mississippi was that slavery was legal until just a couple weeks ago. There is never a wrong time to right a wrong. That is the very -purpose- of the courts.

    March 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chuck Anziulewicz

    The fact remains that the U.S. is not a Christian theocracy. It is not the job of our government to uphold "God's law," but rather to uphold the Constitution. And unless you think the Constitution only applies to people who are Straight (i.e. heterosexual), there is no justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the same legal benefits and protections that Straight couples have always taken for granted.

    Ask any Straight couple why they choose to marry. Their answer will not be, “We want to get married so that we can have sex and make babies!” That would be absurd, since couples do not need to marry to make babies, nor is the ability of even desire to make babies a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license.

    No, the reason couples choose to marry is to make a solemn declaration before friends and family members that they wish to make a commitment to one another’s happiness, health, and well-being, to the exclusion of all others. Those friends and family members will subsequently act as a force of encouragement for that couple to hold fast to their vows.

    THAT’S what makes marriage a good thing, whether the couple in question is Straight OR Gay. It looks like American voters are starting to accept that.

    March 11, 2013 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • michael t

      You choose to deny that children born to a man and a woman have a balance upbringing. This cannot happen with two moms or two dads.
      I just read a comment about two women who married and she claims that the marriage, with 4 children from the previous tow hetrosexual marriages has lead to a normal family
      Good luck with that approach
      Why dont we call gay marriages what they are ? Homosexual and lesbian
      Not enough pc in that approach for you, I guess ?

      March 13, 2013 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Robert Smith

    Thanks for a good article! As a resident of Iowa I can affirm the fact that life here continues to be "normal"! People just live, love, struggle, break, forgive, keep trying, and everything else before breathing our last. Tolerance and acceptance are increasingly understood to be virtues in a civilized society... those who still insist that only they know "truth", "the will of God", and the "meaning of life" are no longer the majority in this State or Country: diversity is a blessing. Fear and hate have had their day: a brand new sun is shining on this land: from sea to shining sea.

    March 11, 2013 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. George O

    Re: "But since he left office, he’s had many conversations with gay Iowans and changed his mind on the issue"

    To know us is to love us.

    March 11, 2013 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |