Saturday is the fourth anniversary of our state's recognition of same-sex marriage. Four years ago, as an editor of Iowa City West High School’s The West Side Story and the proud son of a lesbian couple, I predicted that defending same-sex marriage was "political suicide" for Iowa Democrats. A lot has changed in four years. I'm glad that my moms taught me early on just how important it is to admit when you're wrong, because my prediction was way off the mark.
Today, not only do Iowa Democrats still hold the Senate, but after the 2012 elections, all talk of a constitutional amendment has faded to whispers at the fringe. Even Rep. Steve King has admitted that marriage equality is probably here to stay in the Hawkeye State.
And it turns out I'm not the only not the only one surprised by the change in public opinion. Nationally, Democratic politicians have been tripping over themselves to reverse their position on this issue: our President openly supports same-sex marriage, his party has codified its support into the Democratic platform and every serious Democratic 2016 presidential contender has endorsed the recognition of my moms' marriage.
Like I said, a lot has changed in four years.
But as important and meaningful as this date is to my family and thousands of others, it’s also a reminder, to families like mine, of what hasn't changed.
Even though my moms' relationship is legally recognized by our state, they are still ignored by the federal government. When our family travels, my moms still have to worry about other states failing to acknowledge their legal union. And as federal employees — both of my moms work for the Veterans Affairs hospital in Iowa city — my parents still face an array of other legal and tax-related challenges not endured by male-female couples.
This spring will be a momentous one for families like mine. There will, of course, be the annual tributes we’ve celebrated for years like Mothers' Day in May. (And yes, I know where the apostrophe goes.) But this year, with millions of others, we’ll be holding our breath in June when the United States Supreme Court will rule on two groundbreaking cases addressing marriage equality.
I know when the justices consider these cases they will see the faces of so many American families just like mine. After all, nearly 20 years after the initial debates surrounding the federal Defense of Marriage Act, families like mine are no longer oddities universally regarded as social experiments--and for good reason. Like all other Iowa families, we had chores to do growing up, we had groceries to buy and smoke detector batteries to change. Like most people do, we went to church, we took vacations and every now and again, we fought about one thing or another and had to apologize for things we said.
Four years ago, the Iowa State Supreme Court did the right thing by recognizing the love and commitment of parents like mine and extending to them the freedom to marry. That decision has made Iowa proud, but its truth will ring hollow in a nation that fails to see what we see if the United States Supreme Court rules the wrong way in June.
But I don't think they will. I believe the justices will see the American heartland I grew up in. It’s a place where families celebrate one another and pitch in when there’s a crisis. It’s a place where spirit, values and heart are what makes a family--not a rigid worldview.
It isn't easy, acknowledging when the world looks different from how you thought it would, or should. But changing opinions reflect a changing world, when we have the courage to see the world as it is and not just see it as we are. The world has changed a lot in four years, and I'm confident the Supreme Court will have the courage to change with it.