Iowa’s Governor Does the Right Thing

Iowa's Governor Does the Right Thing


Reprinted with permission from IowaGuy2.0BFIA would also like to recommend following the link to the letter the author wrote to Governor Culver.  Even though everything turned out okay, it is still worth taking the time to read because it is a moving and persuasive letter, and if it is ever true that one letter by one citizen can change the mind of a politician, one can imagine that it could very likely have been a factor in Chet ultimately doing the right thing.  Thanks, Iowa Guy, for sharing.


 ~ When the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Varnum v. Brien, the suit that ultimately brought marriage equality to the state, Iowa Governor Chet Culver called upon the court to deliver a quick ruling. He further stated that if the ruling came down in favor of marriage equality the Legislature should immediately pass a constitutional amendment that would have created a separate class of citizens who were not deserving of equal rights under the state's Constitution. The Governor went so far as to hint that he would call a Special Session of the Legislature to deal with this issue.

I roundly criticized Governor Culver in this forum and sent him an angry letter that I also posted here. I pointed out that marriage equality is a civil rights issue and is something that the Governor's own party platform supports.

For the longest time I heard nothing from the Governor's office. When I finally received a reply, Governor Culver stated exactly the positions I feared he would take. At that time, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to oust him from office in the next election and replace him with a real Democrat who believed in the ideals of the Party.

Last month, when the ruling in Varnum v. Brien was announced, the Governor's office was strangely silent. After several days, the Executive Office announced that the Governor wanted time to examine the ruling and discuss it with the state's Attorney General. At least it was not the knee-jerk reaction I had been expecting.

A week or two later, the Governor announced that he would respect the court's ruling and was reluctant to make any call to amend the Constitution. While I was happy with this announcement, the change in message surprised me somewhat.

Last week, I received a letter from the Governor's Office concerning this issue. I have posted a scan of the letter below, but I want to point out a couple of specific points that the letter makes.

I want to emphasize that the question before the Iowa Supreme Court was one of civil marriage only – a state-recognized legal status constituting a civil contract. Civil marriage always has been, and will continue to be, separate from religious marriage that takes place in churches and places of worship….

The Iowa Supreme Court's decision has, in fact, reaffirmed that churches across Iowa will continue to have the right to recognize the sanctity of religious marriage in accordance with their own traditions and church doctrines. The Supreme Court's decision does not require that churches recognize marriages between persons of the same gender or officiate over such unions. The court does not have, nor should any court ever have, that kind of power over our religious lives. Our churches and places of worship are free to decide for themselves, as they were before, who may enter the sacred covenant of marriage….


The Governor gets it and recognizes that the meat of the Court's ruling made a clear distinction between the civil contract of marriage, recognized and protected by the state, and that of religious marriage. Saying that all couples are deserving of equal rights under the law in no way takes rights away from “traditional” marriage, nor does it demand that any church bless same-sex unions if it chooses not to do so. The ruling merely mandates that the state do so. Churches are still free to do as they wish according to their tenets.

The letter continues:

Yet, the Supreme Court of Iowa, in a unanimous decision, has clearly stated that the Constitution of our state, which guarantees equal protection of the law to all Iowans, requires the State of Iowa to recognize the civil marriage contract of two people of the same gender. The Court also concluded that the denial of this right constitutes discrimination. Therefore, after careful consideration and a thorough reading of the Court's decision, I am reluctant to support amending the Iowa Constitution to add a provision that our Supreme Court has said is unlawful and discriminatory.

As Governor, I must respect the authority of the Iowa Supreme court, and have a duty to uphold the Constitution of the State of Iowa. I also fully respect the right of all Iowans to live under the full protection of Iowa's Constitution.


Those who don't believe in equal rights for everybody want to subvert the authority and role of the court by enacting legislation that overturns a lawful ruling. The court's job is not to make laws, but to interpret existing laws to see if they pass Constitutional muster. The court correctly ruled that this law did not. That is how our system of checks and balances works.

Governor Culver recognizes and respects the part the judicial system plays in our system of government and will uphold the law, even if he personally does not agree with it. This is exactly the type of leader I want in office.

The Court's ruling is not about churches, or the right they have to practice their religion as they see fit. It is about the right of all people in the great state of Iowa to be free from discrimination and to live equally with their neighbors and fellow Iowans with the same rights that we all deserve.

Thank you, Governor, for recognizing this fact.



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