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Monday, April 11, 2011

Why my view on same-sex marriage has changed

I served 12 years in the Iowa Senate, and I, like all other legislators, took an oath to defend the our state's constitution. During my tenure in the Senate, I voted for a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and I was lead sponsor for a similar amendment.

I heard from my church and my fellow Republicans that homosexuality was wrong, and I thought I could lovingly disagree with them. I could "hate the sin, love the sinner" as people say when they do not believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. But there came a point when I could no longer ignore how much this attitude hurt the people I know. Because this issue is not about rhetoric; this issue is about people and their freedom to choose a spouse.

Our constitution exists to protect the rights of individuals, and does so by limiting the government's power to control the lives and properties of citizens. A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, instead of limiting government control, would limit the ability of a select group of citizens to enter into civil marriage, therefore violating the very purpose of our constitution.

When we start allowing constitutional amendments that limit individual control, and give that control over to the government, we open ourselves up to more limitations on our individual freedom. It's easy to feel so passionately about an issue that you don't look at it objectively, but what happens when the individual freedom we're discussing is gun control or universal health care? We need to set aside the rhetoric and look at the slope on which we're starting to slide.

This debate centers on a devaluation of the lives of select group of people. At its worst we are being asked to believe that our gay friends and neighbors are involved in a nefarious agenda, the outcome of which is supposedly the unraveling of society itself. It's tempting to place the blame for all society's ills at one doorstep; indeed, that has been the plight of minorities throughout history. But a villain like that only exists in movies. In reality, the forces we face are all the same: getting a good job, supporting our families and making our communities better places to live.
The stability of marriage and the sanctity of personal liberty are the foundations of conservative values, and we should be glad those values are spreading and being embraced in so many different walks of life. They are universal and fundamental.

There is no reason to think heterosexual marriage is threatened by gays and lesbians getting married. There will be the same number of heterosexual marriages, divorces and children born. Churches can choose not to marry same-sex couples, and churches that do have the religious freedom to perform those ceremonies.

Whether or not you agree with gay marriage, we're all joined by our love of liberty. Free citizens are allowed to disagree and live their lives as they choose without fear of government reprisal as long as life and property are not threatened.

The tenor of this debate does not serve the people Iowa well, and is not in keeping with an Iowa culture known nationwide for displaying respect and generosity of spirit. Each day, Iowans worship with, work with, live with, and love people who are gay. Together we make a great state, facing the same problems and, hopefully, the same bright future.

JEFF ANGELO is a former Republican state senator. He now lives in Ames and works in media relations in Des Moines. Contact:


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