Maybe We’ll Get Married in Iowa Instead?

Last year I wrote about Tawn and I planning to get married in California when we returned to visit family over the holidays.  That plan was upset by the voters of California, who passed Proposition 8 thanks largely to the help of a (possibly illegal) injection of funds by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

That said, it looks like we may have another marriage option when we return to Kansas City this summer to see the family: Iowa.

That’s right, restrictions to same-sex marriage have been overturned by the Iowa State Supreme Court and marriages will begin before the end of the month. 


Does this surprise you as much as it surprises me?  It seems it shouldn’t.  Iowa has a history of being a progressive state.  It was one of the first to allow interracial marriage and women to own property.  It ended segregation shortly after the Civil War.  It was the first state to allow a woman to practice law and it was a leader in school desegregation.  The governor and legislature are Democratic.

Based on the first news reports, those opposed to same-sex marriage aren’t rushing to the “activist judges” defense quite as quickly.  For starters, the court issued a 7-0 ruling in favor of striking down bans on same-sex marriage.  There was no split decision. 

Furthermore, the state constitution requires a lengthy process to be changed: two consecutive legislatures have to pass the amendment and then it has to be approved by voters, too.  That’s at least a two-year process and current Democratic leadership has indicated that they’re not inclined to introduce such an amendment.

The third reason the same-sex marriage opponents probably haven’t done the “activist judges” route is that the court’s decision addresses the role of the court to make this decision, walking step by step through the role of the three branches of government in the State of Iowa.  The full decision, which is interesting reading, can be found here.  Quoting from that decision:

A statute inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution must be declared void, even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion. Iowa Const. art. XII, § 1 (providing any law inconsistent with the constitution is void). As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote over two centuries ago, “It is a proposition too plain to be contested, that the constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it . . . .”  Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177, 2 L. Ed. 60, 73 (1803).

Like any journey towards equality, this one is a long, slow march.  But today, we’ve taken another step to the point where we look back and ask ourselves, “What was all the fuss over same-sex marriage about?”


Op-Ed Feature from The Nation: Without Equality, Tolerance is Just A Myth

Since you may not have a chance to read it yourself, I’m sharing an op-ed piece byPaisarn Likhitpreechakul written for The Nation, one of Thailand’s two English language daily newspapers.


CNX Gay Pride 2 Without equality, tolerance for gays is just a myth



Published on April 3, 2009


Thee’s a myth, especially among foreigners, that Thailand is “tolerant” towards gays and transgenders. After all, hardly a day goes by without one seeing ladyboys or katoeys (male-to-female transgenders). Most Thais also like to believe in such a feel-good story, as well as spin it to foreigners. To say anything to the contrary will cause a loss of face. However, that kind of simplistic rationale based on visibility is akin to reasoning that Thai women must have equal rights to men because every other Thai appears to be female. 


Even long-term foreign residents aren’t likely to have heard about, for example, a bisexual woman who was burned alive in 2006, and the rape, murder and burning of a lesbian last year. Both cases were reported only in the Thai dailies. Continue reading

Del Martin – Honoring the Life of an Amazing Pioneer

There are people in this world whose work and life have positively affected our own, often in ways we may not realize, about whom we may not know.  On Wednesday, we lost an amazing person, Del Martin, at age 87.

Del Martin Described as a “pioneering lesbian rights activist”, Martin married 83-year old Phyllis Lyon, her partner of fifty-five years, in a ceremony at San Francisco City Hall on June 16, 2008 – the the first day on which same-sex marriage was legal in the state of California.

Right: Del Martin (in purple) and Phyllis Lyon are married on June 16.  Photo “courtesy” AP.

The label, though, could cause many of us who are not lesbians to mistakenly think her pioneering work did not affect our lives.  Rest assured, though, her tireless work resulted in greater freedoms, protections, and equality for all citizens of the United States.

The California Supreme Court decision in May of this year, striking down a law that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, came about as a result of a lawsuit filed by Martin and Lyon and two dozen other couples.  Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said, “We would not have marriage equality in California if it weren’t for Del and Phyllis.  They fought and triumphed in many battles.”

Martin and Lyon were involved in founding a San Francisco social group for lesbians in 1955 called the Daughters of Bilitis.  It became the nation’s first lesbian advocacy organization and one of the earliest groups to address the rights of queer people.

In the 1970s, Martin became the first out lesbian to serve on the National Organization of Women’s board of directors, a move that was highly controversial as NOW was concerned that her presence would be seen as too radical at a time when homosexuality was still seen by many as a deviant practice.

In just a few short months, the rights and equality Del Martin worked so hard for, will one again be challenged as California voters face a yes or no decision on proposition eight: “Change the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.” 

As San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who officiated at Martin and Lyon’s wedding, said, “The greatest way we can honor the life work of Del Martin, is to continue to fight and never give up, until we have achieved equality for all.”

Thank you to Del Martin for a lifetime of service to humanity, and the deepest condolences to her partner of so many years, Phyllis Lyon.