Gay marriage ruling has Iowans weighing their values
Calm deliberation marks the reaction, for the most part, to Friday's landmark court decision.
(Page 2 of 2)
Most Iowans interviewed said they view gay marriage largely as a civil rights issue, making it easier to separate from personal convictions.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"It's not my cup of tea, but what people do is their business. The only thing I think is great about it is, it gives a right back to people. It's not a free country anymore," said Karm Paysen of nearby Calamus, who says there's too much interference with people's lifestyles in the form of regulations such as public smoking bans and mandatory seat-belt use.
Less resistance among younger Iowans
When first asked, 20-something Jason Bak said he didn't think gay marriage was "natural." But when considering what the ruling meant for his state, he said it would neither harm nor foul. "I was raised Catholic and I have religious beliefs. But I also have my own beliefs," he said. "People should be happy."
His convictions are in line with the University of Iowa poll showing that 58.7 percent of Iowans under age 30 support gay marriage in their state, and three-fourths believe in some kind of formal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
On Sunday, one place that conversation happened was after church. Michaela Groh, a lay youth leader at Community of Joy, a United Methodist congregation in Bettendorf, said teenagers ages 14 to 18 had "a very mixed reaction" to the ruling.
"They want people to be happy but asked is it in God's will or not," she said. Standing outside Davenport's Vander Veer Conservatory, she and fellow youth leader Nichole Nicholas, also in her 20s, said legalizing gay marriage in Iowa is evidence that, among their generation at least, a cultural taboo is slowly in decline.
"The way I see it, when it comes to political issues, Iowa is a swing state. So if we're one of the first couple of states to pass it, it's going to become mainstream," she said.
Opponents consider constitutional amendment
There are Iowans, however, who remain incensed. Outside the Wal-Mart, an older man who would give his name only as Craig said the ruling will force healthcare prices to increase if it meant gays and lesbians would be relocating to his state. "They're OK to stay on the East Coast," he said.
State lawmakers opposed to the ruling are already prepping constituents to ready petitions to seek a constitutional amendment overturning the ruling in 2012.
Pastor John Beller said he would support those efforts with his congregants at Quint City Baptist Church. He worries that state legislation might one day force him to perform marriages that would otherwise be against the tenants of his church.
"One mantra of the gay and lesbian movement is they want freedom of choice. But they want freedom of choice for what their ideas are. Down the line, that freedom might infringe [on] what others believe," he said.
For the moment, however, passions on both sides remain calm.
Loading groceries into their car, Kim Bahrenfuss said she and her husband Kevin were "pleasantly surprised" with the ruling. "I think there's more problems in the country than trying to deny people their civil rights," Mr. Bahrenfuss said.
But as wedding bells start ringing around his state for gay couples, he acknowledged that one thing is certain: "The battle is not over."