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The gay marriage "catastrophe"

BY ZACH WAHLS | SEPTEMBER 15, 2010 7:20 AM

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A recent study on same-sex marriage confirmed my already strident pro-equality view on the issue.

The nonprofit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, led by University of Iowa journalism Associate Professor Stephen Berry, found that nearly a year and a half after the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling — surprise! — marriage in Iowa remains strong. In fact, since the Varnum v. Brien decision, divorces have declined to their lowest per capita level since 1968, at 7,286.

I'm just going to take a moment to revel in that.

One more second.

Swanky.

The Varnum decision directly affected my family. My mothers were married for the second and third times last year. (The first time was a commitment ceremony in 1996, the second time was the legit marriage in early October 2009 — so Mom 2 could get on Mom 1's health insurance after she lost her job — and the third time included the whole ceremony, with family and friends, later in October.)

And 14/one year(s) later, they're still going strong, despite having to deal with a debilitating disease (multiple sclerosis), a brief period of unemployment, and raising my younger sister and me. And, believe me, that last one is the real testament to the strength of their marriage.

Still, all is not well and good in the heartland. Since Bob Vander Plaats, a candidate for GOP nomination for governor, was defeated, he has turned his focus to the retention votes of three members of the Iowa Supreme Court.

Now, Vander Plaats is a good guy. He worked as a high-school principal, managed a nonprofit, and has been endorsed by Chuck Norris. I really wish I could sit down with him and talk to him about why he is so vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage.

On the campaign trail, he said that were he elected governor, he'd issue an executive order to halt gay marriage, even if it meant he'd be impeached. Do social conservatives really feel like their own marriages are under assault? Are they trying to protect us, the kids produced by these relationships?

Last fall, I had the opportunity, courtesy of Iowa Public Radio's "The Exchange," to talk with a Tea Partier about this very topic. When I mentioned that two lesbian women raised me, her face turned to shock and then concern. She asked if I ever had yearning to meet my father — an anonymous sperm donor.

My answer was — and remains — "no." And no, I don't feel damaged or that my childhood was somehow scarred. Maybe I have, in some way undetectable to me, been permanently harmed by having two moms. I guess I can't be sure.

The truth is though — and this is something that the aforementioned study also reported — we live pretty boring lives.

We do chores. We play board games. We get bored. We celebrate Christmas. We mow our lawns and sweep our garages. We have fights, and we have catharsis. We have faith. And, as I pointed out to my mom (the biological one) the other day, the addition of a marriage certificate to our family doesn't really feel a whole lot different. (She agreed.)

Like our fellow Iowans, we want only to live and let live. At the point that 92 percent of Iowans say that same-sex marriage hasn't affected their lives (as a Des Moines Register poll found last fall), when Iowa divorce rates have reached a 42-year low, and social conservatives have yet to produce a single argument that demonstrates why civil marriage isn't a civil right, you have to wonder what's motivating these people.

Beats me.


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