Democratic Senator Tom Harkin says he would vote against a ban on gay marriage in Iowa. In 1996, Harkin voted in favor of the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" which declared the federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriage and it declared states do not have to legally recognize gay marriages obtained in another state.
This afternoon, during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, "Iowa Press," Harkin said his views on the subject have changed in the past decade. "Well, you know, we all grow as we get older and we learn things and we become more sensitive to people and people’s lives and the more I’ve looked at that I’ve grown to think differently..and I’m to that point: ‘Live and let live.’"
On April 3rd, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling which legalized gay marriage in Iowa and, on that day, Harkin issued a statement saying his "personal view has been that marriage is between a man and a woman." Harkin also said, just over a month ago, that the decision would be "very hard for many to accept," but Harkin added in that written statement that he would "respect and support" the state court’s decision.
Today, Harkin recommended that everyone read and be inspired by the court’s 69-page decision. "It seems to me Iowa has always been in the forefront of extending civil rights to people," Harkin said. "…And this, again, I think is just another step in that march we’ve had in Iowa and I think now you see a lot of other states now falling in line, just two in the last week."
Gay marriage opponents are pressing for an amendment to the state constitution which would ban gay marriage in Iowa. Harkin’s opposed to it.
"I would vote against it," Harkin declared this afternoon.
Harkin also rejects the idea Democrats, in general, will pay at the polls in 2010 because many of the state’s top Democrats have come out in support of gay marriage.
"A couple of years from now, people will look back and say, ‘What was the fuss about?’" Harkin said. "(In) 2010, the elections will hinge on the economy; health care reform; what we’re doing on energy and whether families are doing better — whether they can see that their kids are going to have a better education, whether their lives are getting better or not. It’s not going to have one whit to do with gay marriage."
Harkin predicts the issue will fade from the spotlight. "You know, there’s always going to be some who feel that they have to push this issue and for whatever reason they’re going to try to push it and try to divide people up, but they’re on the losing end," Harkin said. "They’re on the losing end of history."
Harkin first won his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1984 and was reelected to a fourth term last year.