Richard Land’s Ignorance-Based Argument
April 14th, 2009
It is embarrassing to write an opinion piece only to find out that you’ve gotten a fact wrong. If you’re lucky it’s only an incidental point and not the thesis of your argument; to discover that your entire opinion is premised on an inaccuracy is mortifying.
So Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is probably not going to be very proud of his article in the Baptist Press entitled The poster child for marriage amends. In it he argues that every state needs to enact an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, in large part because:
With no residency requirements, the court’s opinion means at the end of April when the order goes into effect, same-sex couples will be free to travel from other states to exchange “vows” in the Iowa heartland.
This ruling turns Iowa into a destination for “same-sex marriages.” No doubt, there are weekend travel packages already being planned. Iowa will soon be the Las Vegas of “same-sex marriage” for America. And you know those folks won’t be resettling in the Hawkeye state, but will be heading back home — perhaps to your state to sue for recognition there.
Oh my, that’s certain to startle some who fear that now, starting on April 27, same-sex couples will be able go get married somewhere else and import that marriage right back to your own state. After April 27, the world will be a very different place.
The problem is, of course, that this is nonsense.
First, same-sex couples can already marry elsewhere and return back home.
Connecticut has no residency requirements and in July of last year Massachusetts repealed the law that restricted same-sex marriage to residents. After September 1, Vermont also will happily accommodate out-of-state marriages.
So with all due respect to Iowans, it is extremely unlikely that Iowa will soon be the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage for America.
Second, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) currently exempts states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. And here is where Land’s argument falls completely apart.
Your state is protected by federal law from recognizing a same-sex marriage in Iowa. Any attempt to force them to do so would be by means of a federal lawsuit, not a state lawsuit. And should the Supreme Court of the United States determine either that gay people cannot be restricted from the rights and privileges grated to heterosexuals, OR that the US Constitution’s ‘full faith and credit clause’ invalidates DOMA, it doesn’t matter how many anti-gay amendments you have cluttering up your state constitution.
Conversely, if a gay couple sues in your state for marriage rights, it will do so under your own state’s constitution. Whether they went to be married in Iowa or Canada or just to their local United Church of Christ minister, the legal argument is the same.
The only states that could even begin to be impacted by Iowa’s decision are New York, Rhode Island and perhaps Wyoming, states in which there is some legal opinion that out-of-state marriage is recognized. And the only impact is that Iowa is now added to the list of marriage venue choices.
Richard Land wants his readers to be frightened that the decision in Iowa has changed the marriage landscape because now same-sex marriages will be exported to your state.
But when it comes to the facts about the current status of same-sex marriage, Richard Land is startlingly misinformed. Or he hopes that you are.