As religious leaders feud over defining marriage, governor announces
he would sign same-sex civil union bill if it is sent to him
DES MOINES, Iowa Competing church leaders squabbled over the status of marriage, while Governor Tom Vilsack said he would sign into law a measure allowing civil unions between same-sex couples in the unlikely event the Legislature sent it to him.
Conservative church leaders held a Statehouse rally to sign a “marriage matters” agreement, vowing to increase the commitment to counseling and support for traditional marriages.
“Marriage is in trouble,” said Mike Hartwig, saying ministers should focus on ways to support traditional marriages.
“Strong marriages mean strong families, strong churches and strong communities,” said the Rev. Jeff Bradley, of Des Moines.
The conservative ministers distributed literature with Biblical verses defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Within minutes, more liberal church leaders rallied to argue for extending the protections of marriage to same-sex couples.
“I have faith that one day we will look back at our restrictions on same-sex marriage and shake our heads, wondering why it took so long for us to come to our senses,” said the Rev. Mark Stringer, a Unitarian minister who chairs the board of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund.
Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Interfaith alliance described the group as “the only unified progressive voice of faith in the state of Iowa.”
“The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is here to stand in support of all families, including those headed by same-sex couples,” she said.
Vilsack was asked about the issue during a news conference on education issues. The governor signed into law a measure defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“My view is the state ought to pretty much stay out of the church’s business,” Vilsack said. “I think there is a religious connotation to marriage that needs to be respected and understood.”
At the same time, Vilsack said, the state ought to recognize the commitment of same-sex couples through some kind of civil union law.
“I don’t think you necessarily have to redefine marriage to do it. A civil union set of rights would honor that,” Vilsack said. “Marriage is already defined and we don’t need to change it.”
Gay rights advocates have filed a lawsuit challenging the state law defining marriage as between a man and woman, and conservatives say that lawsuit is evidence the state’s constitution should be amended.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 17, 2006.