This morning, One Iowa and Lambda Legal welcomed community members and the media to a discussion about the future of marriage and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in Iowa.
We talked about what is in store for LGBT Iowans and how we move forward as advocates and allies. We discussed the role of Republicans and conservatives, Iowans of faith, fair courts and another potential retention battle, the role of Iowa Democrats, and how the Supreme Court ruling in DOMA and the Proposition 8 case can impact LGBT Iowans.
The panel included:
- Connie Ryan Terrell, speaking for both Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Justice Not Politics
- Sue Dvorsky, Iowa Democratic Party Chair
- Former Republican State Senator Jeff Angelo, Iowa Republicans for Freedom
- Eric Lesh, Lambda Legal Fair Courts Program Manager
And I finished the panel with the following remarks:
We hear about the New Normal. What is that?
It is a Supreme Court Justice who could not be bullied by Bob Vander Plaats. Bob on the bus, with Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. Iowans understood how disrespectful it was to plaster Justice Wiggins’ face on the side of that bus. Iowans understood that Vander Plaats and his cohorts want to continue to punish the Iowan Supreme Court Justices for their unanimous ruling on marriage with the Varnum decision. At the end of the day, the retention vote was about marriage equality. Ultimately, Iowans rejected the mean-spirited narrative and voted to retain Justice David Wiggins. That is the new normal.
We maintained a pro-equality Senate majority, and gained seven seats in the State House, sending a clear message that opposing marriage equality and using this issue as a political wedge is no longer a winning strategy. That is only a part of the new normal. Listen to what Senator Jeff Angelo, founder of Iowa Republicans for Freedom said, listen to what a lot of Republicans are saying.
Congressman Steve King is no friend of marriage. He has proposed bills that would ban military chaplains from performing same-gender marriages, and he wants private business owners to be able to discriminate against LGBT employees. But five days ago, in an Iowa Public Television interview, he said, “Here in Iowa, there’s not going to be a vote on it (marriage) that I can see and if that’s the case and another two years go by, I would never say never…but it doesn’t look very optimistic for people who believe in traditional marriage as I do.” That is the new normal.
Issues of equality and justice will no longer be used as divisive social issues; this is the future of the new normal. Equality will be neither red nor blue—it will simply be the new normal.
It is our friends in Maine and Maryland and Washington State, who, against all odds, voted for marriage equality. It is our neighbors to the north, Minnesota, who rejected a harmful marriage ban.
It is a friend to our northeast, Tammy Baldwin, who became the first LGBT Senator in the history of the nation. She is the new normal.
It is a president who, in the midst of his most challenging campaign, had the courage and the integrity to embrace marriage equality. Oh, and he won.
So, here in Iowa. What is next?
We need to meet with our friends, and with those who are conflicted and with those who oppose us. We need to change the narrative from an “us and them” to a One Iowa narrative.
We need to meet with the Iowa Department Of Public Health and make sure that our families and our children and our relationships are accorded the same rights and privileges as anyone else. No more erasing a mother’s name on a death certificate. No more refusing to put both parents on a birth certificate.
We need to make sure that we de-criminalize AIDS/HIV. And we can do that in the next session.
We need to look at healthcare for LGBT individuals. What are the needs and the problems, and where are the solutions?
We need to look at the safety of our kids. Let's put resources into making sure that our children are not bullied just because they may be LGBT or questioning. And let’s put some effort into make sure that our kids do not become bullies. That’s the new normal.
Let’s look at what happens to LGBT folks in rural and farming communities. What happens to you if you are a senior, a gay man living in a retirement facility in the southeast corner of the state? What happens to a child growing up in a farming community? Are they safe? Are there resources?
The New Normal…
Its you and me; it’s that simple! It’s all of us. It's lesbians and gay men, bisexual and transgender people. It's those of us who are queer or questioning. It's our friends and neighbors, our families, our Moms and Dads. That is the new normal. It's our families--our beautiful families. We are the new normal!
We must extend our hand to those who are not quite there. To folks who are a little nervous about change, to folks who think that we are the stereotype of what it means to be LGBT. We need to sit with pastors and priests, with rabbis and Imams. We need to meet with politicians, elected and appointed officials on both sides of the aisle, and with community leaders, with journalists and academics. We need to meet them where they are, we need to meet them with dignity and respect and with civility. That is the new normal.
Iowa, we stand in the Heartland as a beacon, a light. We give the rest of the nation a reason to believe. Iowa is a state that exhibited fairness and integrity in this last election. Iowa, a state that rejected injustice. One Iowa. The new normal is anything we want it to be.