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Newly acquired rights are great, but marriage is no hasty decision

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 11, 2009 7:26 AM

Attempts to market Iowa City as a friendly place for same-sex marriage have again raised the question of what defines marriage. Individuals opposed to same-sex marriage argue that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman and that allowing couples of the same sex to participate in similar ceremonies denigrates that sanctity. People who support same-sex marriage argue that marriage is a fundamental civil right that all consenting individuals should have.

What’s most important, though, is that participants are ready and willing to make a serious, lifelong commitment.

Leaders in the Iowa City area have taken on the role of making Iowa City a cozy area for gay weddings. Along with the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotels, and other businesses are putting together wedding packages aimed at attracting gay couples. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is even working with these businesses and groups to compile a list of gay-friendly groups.

The monetary benefits could be significant. According to a study by UCLA professors, the state of Iowa could gain $5.3 million a year from gay marriages alone. A good portion of that money could make its way to Iowa City, where Joshua Schamberger, the president of the convention bureau, believes the city’s progressive atmosphere could be an attractive place for same-sex couples.

Schamberger declined to comment on same-sex marriage from a moral standpoint, and he’s right to do so. Commerce institutions and businesses are in no position judge people’s lifestyles and dispositions.

While attracting same-sex couples will bring monetary benefit, it will also bring with it certain risks. One of those possibilities could be attracting couples not yet ready to make the lifetime commitment needed for marriage. John Harper, a former UI professor and ordained Episcopalian priest who volunteered his services to preside over same-sex marriages (in accordance with his churches’ rules) says he has turned down a few couples whom he thought were not ready to make the lifetime commitment. Despite the rosy picture Iowa City groups would like to paint for the city, Harper believes it’s unrealistic for some couples to come to Iowa City and expect an expedient wedding.

Harper and other ministers willing to perform same-sex weddings counsel the couples beforehand and agree to preside based on the couple’s level of commitment — not only to each other — but to their faith as well. Harper is right to be cautious. Marriage is a serious undertaking, for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Homosexuals, however, face other challenges as well. Iowa makes up only a handful of states that either grant or recognize gay marriage. The federal government does not recognize any type of same-sex union, and it has granted states the right to not recognize marriage licenses from other states via the Defense of Marriage Act. Same-sex couples should take that into account when thinking about coming to Iowa for marriage.

It would be a shame if Iowa City marketed itself as a gay marriage Las Vegas, pushing hasty marriages. The state of Nevada has the highest divorce rate in the country and has held that dubious distinction for the last 20 years, according to infoplease.com.

It is human nature to indulge, especially if that which we indulge in we were denied for so long. The Iowa Supreme Court’s landmark ruling has revolutionized the civil-rights movement and given hope for many people. With these new found rights, however come great responsibility. Being ready for such a commitment takes time, said the Rev. Andrea Schwegman, a minister ordained through World Christian Ministries. She believes marriage and love is based on trust and friendship, and it takes a long time to build that needed trust. People, whether they are straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual, should tread lightly before taking such a monumental step in their lives.


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