Iowans couldn’t care less about gay marriage
February 8th, 2010
When the Iowa Supreme Court determined that denying state services based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional and that the State of Iowa must provide marriage equality, you could almost slice the glee of the Iowa Republican Party. Finally, there was an issue which they could use to perhaps increase their influence and maybe even win a few elections. So they because the “no gay marriage” party.
Last year they made several attempts at getting an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment up for a legislative vote and were unsuccessful. They chortled that Democrats would be sorry come election time.
But as it has turned out, running opposed to gay marriage has not proven to be a winning strategy. To their surprise, Iowans couldn’t care less about stopping gay folk from marrying. Literally.
The Des Moines Register conducted a poll of Iowans asking, “The state Legislature can address large and small issues during the course of the session. For the following issues, please tell me if you think the issue does or does not deserve the Legislature’s limited time.” Banning gay marriage did not make the cut; only 36% thought it was worth the time discussing.
Not only was it not deemed worthy of legislative time, of the six issues that Iowans were questioned about, addressing gay marriage concerned them the least. Iowans were more concerned about payday loans and puppy mills than they were about whether same-sex couples married.
This lack of interest appears to be reflected in a change in strategy in the campaigns of Republicans running for the party’s nomination for governor. Just a brief while ago they were all running to see who could be more extreme and reactionary.
Bob Vander Plaats pledged to halt such weddings with an executive order (an authority the governor does not wield) while Chris Rants declared that he’d veto every bill that reached his desk until the legislature voted on a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. Most of them supported calling for a constitutional convention so they wouldn’t have to wait for two sessions and a popular vote.
Only former governor Terry Branstad, also an opponent of gay marriage, chose not to run as a raving loon. Branstad took a more nuanced approach and expressed recognition of the difficulties that gay couples face when denied certain rights.
But that has changed. The race now appears to be between Branstad and Vander Plaats, and the latter has now discovered a different campaign strategy. (Register)
I’ve talked to Vander Plaats from time to time, but hadn’t really seen him out on the stump since last fall. His speeches used to give prime attention to conservative issues and gay marriage. This time, he focused entirely on job creation, state spending and education. Nobody even asked about the social issues.
I mentioned to him afterward that was a significant change from last summer, when he told me in an interview that he thought the election would hinge on two issues: gay marriage and the state smoking ban.
“Did I say that?” he asked. Yes, I told him.
“Campaigns always evolve, no doubt about it,” he said. (He didn’t mention the smoking ban at all today.)
Yes, there is no doubt that campaigns evolve, especially when the voters care less about your pet issue than they do about monitoring dog breeders.