Ahead of the curve and the high court on marriage equality

Iowa, you make the U.S. Supreme Court nervous.

OK, not exactly. But civil marriage equality, the kind found in Iowa and eight other states and the District of Columbia, seems to have spawned considerable judicial discomfort. Faced with the prospect of allowing the fight over California’s Proposition 8 to lead them toward  a sweeping civil rights landmark, many a justice this week developed constitutional cold feet.

Better an hasty retreat than a big mistake, I suppose. But here in Iowa, where same-sex couples have been getting hitched since April 2009, all this angst over “uncharted waters” seems odd and overblown.

What happens? Well, people get married. Then they celebrate anniversaries, so long as someone doesn’t forget. Our friends and neighbors no longer get treated like second-class Iowans. I suppose some people get divorced, although, overall, the divorce rate in Iowa has remained steady, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Turns out that the “agenda” was not so threatening after all. Forging families. Pursuing happiness.

When the Iowa Supreme Court had the fortitude to issue its own landmark ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, there were warnings that we’d soon go to hell in a handbasket. I’ve heard more than once that’s where I’m going. Our justices also were told that equality would unleash dangerous social change. But equality unanimously defeated fear. Some called for fast action to turn back the clock. Unlike California, that didn’t happen here.

Iowa remains the seventh-best state to raise a child, according to the Foundation for Child Development. Gallup says we’re the ninth-happiest and ninth-healthiest state. We’re top five for job growth, Manpower says, and have the sixth-lowest unemployment rate. Our state government is sitting on a billion-dollar budget surplus. Spring will come. Yes it will. But the predicted polygamist invasion probably won’t. Churches remain open, free to bless marriages as they see fit.

Has marriage equality helped make Iowa happy, healthy and prosperous? Tough to say. But it’s even tougher to claim that equality has been bad for Iowa. That doesn’t mean people won’t keep on claiming it. The outrage industry has yet to close up shop. But it seems like fewer and fewer Iowans are listening.

And on civil rights, we’ve gotten used to waiting for the rest of the nation to catch up. Take your time.

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