November 27, 2014

Gay marriage opponent questions family camping policy for state parks

A state senator who opposes gay marriage is asking questions about plans to change a camping rule in the state park system. Just over a year ago the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling which legalized gay marriage in Iowa.

Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, says it appears to him that the Department of Natural Resources wants to make gay couples eligible for family camping at state parks. “They’re citing the Supreme Court case and changing, you know, ‘husband and wife’ language to ‘spouse,'” Bartz says.

The rates or fees for camp sites are the same, whether you’re a family or a non-family, but the state allows families to put up more than one tent on a camp site. “They’re changing their language even though the state legislature has not had a debate on this particular issue,” Bartz says.

Bartz is a member of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee which meets on Monday. He’s asked D.N.R. officials to explain their proposal at that meeting. Bartz says he wants to be “vigilant” and keep state agencies from writing rules that extend new benefits to gay couples. “A lot of the advocates of gay marriage in Iowa have said, ‘It doesn’t affect anything. Nothing has changed,'” Bartz says. “The reality of it is that everything is changing.”

Bartz concedes the D.N.R. might be sued if they fail to ensure “family” policies for camping apply to gay couples, although Bartz says the state may be sued by gay marriage opponents if the rule is changed. The proposed rule will be formally presented to Bartz and the rest of the legislative panel on May10th, but the final draft won’t be up for a committee vote until later this summer.  At that point the Administrative Rules Review Committee has several options to delay implementation, including a move which would delay a decision on family camping policies until 2011 so the full legislature could make the decision.