Marriage Equality Debate Videos at “One Iowa”

One Iowa, the state’s largest GLBT advocacy organization, is dedicated to supporting full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Iowans through grassroots education and advocacy. The group is currently working
with legislators and community leaders to ensure that this year’s Iowa Supreme Court victory for marriage equality is not overturned through a constitutional amendment. Emboldened by the passage of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, anti-gay activist groups are targeting other states where same-sex marriage was recently approved; a ballot measure to repeal marriage equality is also pending in Maine.

On their website, One Iowa has posted video highlights from a September 16, 2009 debate at Simpson College between Brad Clark, One Iowa’s Campaign Director, and John Stewart, a conservative Christian attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund.

I don’t know if these debates change anyone’s mind, but they do give anti-gay speakers a great opportunity to contract foot-in-mouth disease. “There’s something about the biological parents raising a child that places it in the optimum environment.” Thanks for disrespecting all the loving couples, many of them gay and lesbian, who rescue neglected children from the foster care system. Stewart claims the evidence is just not in yet concerning children raised by same-sex couples. Hey John, I’ve been living the evidence for 37 years; give me a call.

It makes me mad when conservatives fall back on this desperate “insufficient evidence” claim, since the homophobia they’ve perpetuated is a big reason why same-sex couples and their children might be afraid to self-identify in sociological surveys. Because of DOMA, the federal government forces gay couples who are legally married in states like Iowa and Massachusetts to lie on their federal tax forms; if they check the “married” box instead of “single”, they can be penalized. (Info courtesy of this thread on Join the Impact; corroborating info here.) So there’s another reason why stable GLBT families may be under-counted and misrepresented in official data.

Later, in response to an audience question about whether sexual orientation is a choice, Stewart makes the highly debatable claim that social science shows that gay-to-straight conversion is possible (“some people can change…some people do change”). Somewhat flippantly, he mentions Hollywood stars like Anne Heche who have had both male and female partners, to support his argument that homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic and therefore gays should not be a protected class.

There’s actually a valid point buried in here, but the answer is not to deny GLBT equality, but rather to rethink the rationales for our civil rights protections. As the other Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, once said, a person’s religious affiliation can be changed far more easily than his or her sexual orientation, yet we rightly apply the strictest scrutiny to any classification that seems to discriminate on the basis of religion. This is because we recognize that some activities are so fundamental to a person’s heart and soul that the state wants to protect them from coercive interference.

Making “immutability” the linchpin of the debate wrongly pits the B and T in the queer acronym against the G and L. Bisexuals like Anne Heche deserve as much liberty as Brad Clark, who confidently responded to the same audience question, “I’m not just gay some of the time, I’m gay all day long.” Trans-people can change their gender (sort of); does that mean that gender, too, will cease to be a suspect classification? “We’d be happy to hire you, Ms. Reiter, if you’d just grow a pair.”

Watch the videos and contribute to One Iowa here.