Riebhoff: Keep marriage debate off the agenda

Two weeks ago the 2010 Iowa legislative session began with same sex marriage being one of the “hot button” issues.

Opponents of marriage equality want the issue brought to the top of the agenda, they want the house and senate to bring the issue to a statewide vote on an amendment to the Iowa constitution, potentially putting a ban on same sex marriage.

Supporters of marriage equality feel that putting this issue into our statehouse agenda is a waste of time. Our lawmakers have plenty more to worry about than whether to allow the state to vote on marriage.

We have to appropriate a budget that has been cut by 10 percent, we’re still in a recession and Iowans are continuing to lose jobs. These issues should rank a little higher than the issue of marriage.

Iowa has a strong history of being a leader in the civil rights movement, putting this issue to a public vote would go against a long standing tradition we’ve prided ourselves on.

This debate on marriage seems to stem from one little word to begin with: marriage.

Opponents claim that this word is sacred and should only be reserved for heterosexual couples, “like the bible says.”

Many of the opposition say they’re fine with “civil unions,” granting same-sex couples with the same legal rights and benefits that marriage offers just without the title.

Supporters of marriage equality say no. Why should same sex couples be considered second-class citizens and have to use an alternative name for their union?

There’s an easy answer to fix this whole issue – just scrap the word marriage altogether. I think the government should just get rid of marriage and grant everyone civil unions.

Whether it’s a straight couple or gay couple, when they legally unite, it should be seen as a civil union. Then no one has to worry about marriage getting ruined-which let’s face it, already happened when the divorce rate of heterosexual couples hit 50 percent. And same sex couples don’t have to take a “lesser” title for their partnership, it’s all the same.

 And if some couples still find the necessary urge to have their union called a marriage, they can have a separate ceremony in their church, but to the state, it’s still a civil union.

The decision our lawmakers end up making will be monumental. It’s going to send a loud and clear message not only to Iowans, but to people across the nation.

Either we’re a state that will continue to pioneer for equal rights, or we’ve become just like the other 30 states that have constitutionally banned same sex marriage.

I hope our legislators make the right choice to ignore this issue and worry about our state’s current financial and economic issues. But if they do decide they want to talk about marriage, I hope they take my advice and just ban the word and call it a civil union for everyone.

Then maybe we can all get along.