Staff Columnist

Iowa Republicans compare 'fraudulent sexual orientation' to domestic abuse

Under Senate bill, coming out as gay would be worse than leaving kids alone with a sex offender

Sen. Dennis Guth (R-Klemme) listens to comments following vote on a bill limiting public-sector unions at the State Capi
Sen. Dennis Guth (R-Klemme) listens to comments following vote on a bill limiting public-sector unions at the State Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. The House and Senate passed the bill after Republicans cut off the debate using a "time certain" procedural move to expedite passage of the bill. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

In a stunning and downright creepy display of government overreach, one Iowa Republican lawmaker wants to create a state record of married people’s sexual preferences.

State Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, is sponsoring Senate File 2130, which would require Iowans applying for a marriage license to disclose their sexual orientation. It’s one of several bills introduced in the Iowa Legislature this year seeking to limit protections for LGBTQ Iowans.

Under the proposal, “fraudulent concealment of sexual orientation” is likened to domestic abuse. Lying about your sexuality, as determined by the state, would be considered as a key factor in custody proceedings when a marriage is dissolved.

Even within the context of the social conservative movement to impose sexual ethics with the force of government, this is a particularly troubling idea. It’s like “Minority Report” mixed with a badly distorted children’s Bible story.

Iowa’s child custody law has a strong preference for joint custody, but domestic abuse “shall outweigh consideration of any other factor” in the code. The Senate bill would put sexual orientation fraud, not marital infidelity, on the same level as abuse. Even leaving a child unsupervised with a sex offender or jeopardizing a child’s safety are not weighed as heavily.

Guth, who did not respond to my request for comment, was quoted in the Globe Gazette saying the bill relates to a constituent whose spouse “falsified his sexual orientation.”

There are several glaring problems with implementing such a rule. The bill prescribes five options for Iowa marriage applicants to check off — bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, “questioning or unsure,” and “Any identity not listed: please specify.”

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There are many other labels people use to describe their sexual identities, and I expect that imaginative Iowans would come up with many more in their attempts to mock this ridiculous requirement. Who will be in charge of policing the entries to ensure they’re not frivolous? That’s not clear.

Producing evidence of fraudulent sexual orientation would prove highly problematic, inviting lawyers and judges into our most private business.

Guth is a former board member for the Family Leader, the socially conservative Iowa group operated by the state’s top opponents of same-sex marriage. He has previously argued that homosexuality is a public health threat.

“There are health risks that my family incurs because of the increase of sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites,” Guth said on the Senate floor in 2013, adding that “deep loneliness … accompanies a life based on youth, beauty and sex.”

This style of politics is prejudicial, homophobic and just plain wrong. There is a powerful subset of my fellow Republicans who want to build a sexual surveillance state, and subject all Iowans to it.

The government has no legitimate interest in what peaceful, consenting adults do when they take their clothes off. People’s sexual preferences and activities may change over their lifetimes, and it can’t necessarily be attributed to fraud or deception.

Guth’s bill has been assigned for review by a subcommittee, but no hearings have been scheduled as of Thursday.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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