DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Chet Culver on Tuesday ended days
of silence on the Iowa Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex
marriage, saying he disagrees with the ruling but is "reluctant to
support" amending the state constitution to reverse it.
Culver said in a lengthy statement that he hadn't changed his
mind that marriage is between a man and a woman: "This is a tenet
of my personal faith."
However, Culver said the issue before the court in its unanimous
ruling Friday involved only civil marriage, and that churches and
other religious institutions do not have to perform them.
"The court also concluded that the denial of this right
constitutes discrimination," Culver said. "Therefore, after
careful consideration and a thorough reading of the court's
decision, I am reluctant to support amending the Iowa Constitution
to add a provision that our Supreme Court has said is unlawful and
Culver made his statement hours after a Republican candidate for
governor, Bob Vander Plaats, criticized the governor for not being
more clear about where he stood on the gay marriage ruling.
"There's an old saying that silence is golden, but it doesn't
apply when people need to know where their elected officials
stand," said Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman.
The court ruling means same-sex couples can file for licenses in
Iowa beginning April 27, and get married as soon as April 30.
Key Democratic legislative leaders have ruled out efforts to
start the process of amending the constitution, and Culver's
position likely ends that debate for all practical purposes. Social
conservatives have been clamoring for the amendment, but even in
their best-case scenario Iowa voters could not weigh in on the
issue until 2012.
Iowa doesn't have residency requirements for marriage licenses,
so same-sex couples from elsewhere could come to Iowa to be
married. Vander Plaats said at the least, lawmakers should put
residency requirements in place to head off such visits.
"It is wrong to allow people whose states do not allow same-sex
marriages to rush into Iowa, get a quickie marriage and rush home
to undermine the laws and values of another state," he said.
Culver urged both sides in the emotional debate "to exhibit
respect and good will" and said he would focus his attention
"We are in the midst of a serious economic recession," said
Culver, pointing to rising unemployment and last summer's record
flooding. "That is where, I believe, my focus and energies should
Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, criticized
Culver, saying he has broken an earlier promise to oppose gay
"Gov. Culver has chosen to stand with seven elite justices and
deny the 3 million people of Iowa the right to vote on this
significant issue," McKinley said in a statement. "This marriage
flip-flop is just the latest example of Gov. Culver not providing
the leadership that every Iowan deserves."