“Now is the time for Iowans to stand up and be on the right side of history”

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal is bravely standing up for marriage. Last week the house passed a constitutional amendment to reverse the state's Supreme Court decision upholding the freedom to marry. But Gronstal, a Democrat, has said that he will not allow the measure to come up for a vote in the Senate. The Des Moines Register has also come out with a forceful editorial opposing the amendment.

Here are some excerpts from the editorial and from an interview the paper's editorial board had with Gronstal.

From the editorial:

 "'Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.' Those words are on the state seal and the state banner. They pronounce this state's commitment to liberty… Iowa must refocus the conversation about gay marriage where it belongs: on civil rights. Iowans value our freedoms, and we should fight to protect them - for all our neighbors.

… "Now is the time for Iowans to stand up and be on the right side of history.

"The movement to amend the Iowa Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions is a movement to strip away the civil rights of one small group of Iowans. If the rights of one group can be taken away, whose rights are at risk next? It is critical to defend the rights of others to protect everyone's freedoms.

"That is the message legislators should hear, because Iowa stands at a critical juncture: Will it move forward and protect equal rights, or will it move backward and remove them? The answer will define this state's character, both immediately and in the judgment of history.

… "America's, and Iowa's, constitutional evolution is a story of civil rights being expanded to include people who had previously been denied them. African-Americans, women and ethnic and religious minorities did not give up or go away when they faced opposition. They fought until their rights were secured - and then they fought some more to maintain them.

"Other people - those on the right side of history - stood next to them and fought as well. Even if they weren't black or Jewish or Irish or women. People pulled together because they knew it was right.

"That is how things work in America. That's how progress is made.

"One of the main arguments against allowing women the right to vote was that it would undermine the traditional family. Imagine that. Yet, it's the same argument people use to oppose gay marriage.

"We should be wiser now, as we write our history. Do we want to be remembered as a place that protected the rights of all people? Or do we want to be remembered as a place that proactively stripped people of rights?

"This is not a time to quietly stand by while others try to stamp out the freedoms of our neighbors. Iowa is a place that protects equal rights. Not takes them away.

"That is what this moment in history is about."

From Gronstal's interview:

"Q: I want to ask you specifically about your position on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. You have been criticized a lot for one person stopping the will of Iowa voters. What's your answer to that?

"… A: We did not put it to a vote of the people when Iowa took out the prohibition on interracial marriage. We did not put the right of different-race couples to a vote of the people. We didn't put to a vote of the people whether or not women should be admitted to the bar. We didn't put to a vote of the people whether Ralph should be put back into slavery - in the first decision of the Iowa Supreme Court.

"I don't think it's appropriate to put your rights to a vote of the popular will of the people. I believe that's what the constitution is there for, to protect everybody's rights and to avoid the tyranny of the majority. You could get to the point where you could say, 'Well, I don't think anybody in our religion should be able to marry anybody of another religion.'

"I don't think we want to go down that road where we put people's rights to a popular vote of the people.

… "I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it. I'm not going to put to a vote of the people anybody's constitutional rights. Because if I can do that to gay people, I can do it to Catholics, I can do it to Methodists, I can do it to Baptists, I can do it to blacks, I can do it to Hispanics. If I can put to a vote of the people, people's constitutional rights, then you may be popular today - old white guys like us might be popular today and our rights will be fine - but someday the baby boom will be gone and there won't be enough old white guys left to protect us from the tyranny of the majority."

 You can watch a video of Gronstal's interview here: