by Max Brantley
Pundits have rushed to declare last week's Iowa Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages as a boon to conservative political candidates. And the politicians have rushed -- see Mike Huckabee-- to capitalize with a torrent of news releases on the supposed attack on traditional values.
But take a look at public opinion polling by the University of Iowa released April 3. Only 36.7 percent of almost 1,000 registered Iowa voters opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions. 26.2 percent supported same-sex marriage; another 27.9 percent opposed same-sex marriage, but supported same-sex civil unions. Thus, a solid majority favored civil unions. It would appear the real heartland value is tolerance. Not necessarily in the Iowa Republican caucus, of course. But attitudes continue to change for the better and that vote is three years away.
And, in case you missed it, check the jump for the ringing statement issued by Iowa legislative leaders about the ruling. They are both Democrats it probably goes without saying.
(The Arkansas Poll last polled this question two years ago, in 2007. At that point, 51 percent of Arkansans opposed both marriage and civil unions, with 43 percent in support of one or the other. But the number in total opposition has been steadily dropping.)
ALSO: Thanks to Mark for a link to a good analysis by Nate Silver on the steady trend toward acceptance of same-sex union (about 2 percent a year movement across the board). He concludes by listing, by year, when each state could be predicted to vote AGAINST a marriage ban. Arkansas would bring up the rear, in about 2022.
Here is what the state’s Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker said in joint response:
Thanks to today's decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights.
The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.
When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.
Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.
Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.
In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.
In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated "separate but equal" schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.
In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.
Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.