Mayfield: Marriage, Iowa-style
I just returned from the frontlines of the family values war and discovered peace has broken out.
A wedding of heterosexuals this past weekend in Iowa brought me to the state that as of April 27, 2009 made marriage between homosexuals legal. From the conversations I had with folk from this bastion of bacon and corn, no one seemed particularly put-out by the recent legislation. Indeed, I sensed a certain civic pride in the expansion of civil rights among residents of the Hawkeye state.
This is in clear contrast, of course, with what has been going on in states that we have long considered anything but conservative. Take California, for instance. There, a constitutional amendment squeaked by last November that took a different course. It was called “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act” which is pretty self-explanatory. And although there was deep disappointment from 48 percent of Californians, the majority of Californians decided that, despite some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary, the only good marriage is between one man and one woman.
Here in Colorado, back in 2006, we managed to do California one better, or worse, with 55 percent of us deeming holy matrimony in similarly confining restraints.
I know this will come as a shock to some, but apparently marriage, both hetero and homo, seem to be doing fairly well in America’s heartland. Granted, my observation time was brief, but I didn’t encounter a single example of family values crumbling before my eyes. No healthy heterosexuals being lured into nefarious homosexual liaisons, no gay desperados roping innocents into their carnal corrals, no sheep giving me a seductive smile, none of it. Just average American marriages with, I suspect, the average amount of pluses and minuses most all of us have had to face.
It is difficult to understand the hysteria surrounding this issue in some quarters especially when one considers the track record of many of those seeking sanctions. The famous Barna Survey of a few years back showed evangelical Christians having a much higher divorce rate than the general populations and almost double that of agnostics and atheists. One would think such sobering statistics would give these guardians of family values pause, but when you think of the behavior of some of their leaders, well … In recent months we’ve had more than a few stalwart defenders of traditional marriage behaving in some traditionally adulterous ways.
The first gay marriage I officiated took place on the shores of Lake Dillon with two beautiful brides making their way down the tree-lined aisle to our makeshift altar on the shore. Just as now in Colorado, back then there was no legal marriage for lovers like those two blushing beauties, but we didn’t let that stop us. For years I heard from the couple on their anniversary, but that stopped a while ago. Who knows? Maybe they didn’t make it or maybe they just moved away. But none of that should matter anyway.
I learned long ago that I could never guess the success or failure of the couples who came to me to be married. Some of the ones I thought didn’t have a chance have already celebrated their silver anniversaries, and some I thought were sure-fire certainties have long ago gone their separate ways. It certainly wasn’t for me to decide who should benefit from the marital laws of Colorado and who should not. If they were willing to spend time in pre-marital counseling and put up with a cranky Lutheran cleric that was good enough for me.
In any case, the good people of Iowa … well, the good people of Iowa’s Civil Rights Commission if the truth be told … have deemed it appropriate and good that anyone wishing to pay for a marriage license can take their chances with both the best and the worst of matrimony, holy or otherwise and the next Californian or Coloradan who speaks of those magnanimous Midwesterners in a less than magnanimous way might give thought to the hearts beating so generously in America’s heartland.
Rich Mayfield is the author of “Reconstructing Christianity: Notes from the New Reformation.” E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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