Governor Chet Culver says he doesn’t believe gay marriage will be a "major political issue" in the 2010 election.
Culver, a Democrat, intends to seek a second term as governor and Republican critics say Culver’s failure to do something to stop gay marriage from occurring in the state will be an issue with voters.
"I really understand and appreciate the fact that there are very strong emotions on both sides of this issue, but I think the court has spoken loudly and clearly, they had a unanimous decision — 7-0 — granting equal rights under our constitution to everyone including those who are gay and lesbian," Culver says. "And because of that decision and the fact that it was unanimous, I do not believe longterm it will have a real political implication."
The Iowa Supreme Court ruling issued in early April paved the way for same-sex couples to legally marry in Iowa. Gay and lesbian couples began applying for marriage licenses just over a month ago, on April 27th.
"One of the things that I’ve emphasized is the fact that the court spent a lot of time talking about religious marriage, something that I and so many Iowans believe we should protect — the right for a church to make their own decision in terms of who gets married in that sacred place," Culver says. "So I think because the court wrote the opinion in a way that was clear in terms of protecting those religious rights, it’s less likely they’ll have a real political implication next fall."
Culver says Iowa’s situation is different from the battle that’s unfolding in California is the California Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage was a 4-3, split decision among the justices, while the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous and the decision was written by a justice appointed to the court by former Republican Governor Terry Branstad.
"From what I’ve heard and seen across the state, it has not risen to a level where I think it’s going to be a major political issue," Culver says. "I think most Iowans believe that it’s important to protect people’s rights under the Iowa constitution."
Culver made his comments Friday during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s "Iowa Press" program. The program will be rebroadcast Sunday at 11:30 a.m.