Gay Marriage




 STANDARDS is pleased to present this text of an address on gay marriage, given by Iowa Rep. Ed Fallon before the Iowa House of Representatives, on 20 February 1996.


Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I have anguished over this bill, not because there is any doubt in my mind as to how I should vote, but because I believe strongly that what we are dealing with here is the defining civil rights issue of this decade. Historically, this issue may prove to be the most significant matter we deal with this year, and so I would respectfully ask the body's indulgence and attention during this debate.

My remarks are directed both toward those who sincerely believe that this bill is good and just and to those who know in their hearts and consciences that this bill is wrong, but in fear of public opinion and of how this issue will be used in campaigns next fall, they are inclined to vote in favor of its passage.

Back in the 1950s, many, many Americans were victimized by relentless, fear-driven red-baiting. There was a Bolshevik lurking in every bathroom, and you never knew but your neighbor or even your uncle might turn out to be a communist.

In the 1990s, red-baiting is out. But pink-baiting is in. Gay-bashing, generally thought of as a Friday night frloic for inebriated thugs, has its parallel expressions in voting booths, city council halls, and legislative chambers across this country. Today we are witnessing one of those expressions in the form of this bill. By singling out gay and lesbian marriages as a union unacceptable in the eyes of the law, we fuel the fires of ignorance, intolerance, and hatred.

And if anyone here thinks that the positions we embrace, the laws we enact do not affect the mood of the public, then you have a very low, and I believe, a very inaccurate view of the powerful influence we here in this body exert over the formation of public opinion. The message we're sending today is that it's OK to discriminate against people of a different sexual orientation, even though for the most part, that's the way they were born and there's nothing they can do to change it. And for those who would argue that homosexuality is a choice, I ask you: do you really believe that anyone in their right mind would voluntarily choose to be in a class of people who are constantly made fun of, despised, beaten up and even killed, discriminated against, fired from their jobs, denied housing, and prevented from marrying?

For gay and lesbian people, this array of abuse is par for the course. If you believe that homosexuality is a personal choice, then you have not tried very hard to see this issue from a gay or lesbian person's point of view.


Well, I suppose this is as good a time as any for me to come out of the closet. I can't help the way I was born. It's just who I am. I've never announced this to a group publicly, but I guess it's about time. I am heterosexual. I am absolutely certain in my entire being that I could never be homosexual, no matter how hard I might try. I've never been attracted to another man in my life, and the idea of engaging in a homosexual act is foreign and distasteful to me. But just as I would hope that homosexual men and women could accept me for who I am, I promise to try to accept them for who they are. Why can't you do the same? Why can't we all do the same?

Hatred grows out of fear, and fear grows out of ignorance. Though I've never hated homosexuals, I used to fear them. When I was a kid growing up, the worst name you could call someone was a gay loser. And the stereotype that still pervades the minds of many in this chamber -- that of the highly aggressive, promiscuous gay man seeking countless, anonymous relationships -- is the stereotype that I grew up with, and the stereotype that contributes to volumes of ignorance and volumes of fear.

Over time, I've come to learn that this stereotype, like most stereotypes, is based on hearsay, not fact. The rogues who may fit the previous description are the exception to the rule, just as there are male heterosexual rogues who are aggressive, promiscuous, and constantly hitting on and harassing women.

In my evolving experience with homosexuals, familiarity has displaced ignorance and dispelled fear. I now count as friends and constituents many same-sex couples. Some have children. Most are in long-term, stable relationships. All are very decent, kind and normal people. I make no effort to judge the integrity of that they do in their bedroom, and to their credit, they've never judged the integrity of what I do in mine.

One lesbian couple I count as friends have two children the same age as my son and daughter. They attend the same elementary school as my children.

They play together. They go to the same birthday parties. They swap overnights. These two children are healthy, bright, and courteous, and their parents probably do a better job of parenting than I do.

Though you may have personal, religious reasons why this arrangement seems distasteful to you, there is absolutely no way you could rationally argue that this is not a stable happy, healthy family. In a pluralistic society that allegedly values the separation of church and state, why can we not simply live and let live? Accept the reality that this couple's religious beliefs on homosexuality are different than yours. Just leave religion out of it, as our founding fathers and mothers saw fit. If the fruit which falls from the tree is good, the tree must also be good.

Indeed, there are many religious groups that openly and lovingly celebrate unions between same-sex couples. For example, Methodists, the United Church of Christ, Congregationalists, Reform Jews, the Metropolitan Community Church, Unitarian Universalists and Quakers.

There is no shortage of gay or lesbian couples that value and revere marriage. In fact, just last fall I attended the wedding of two women. Their son was present. The wedding was held in a local church. It was conducted by two ministers. And there were 150 family members and friends of the happy couple there to celebrate with them.

Yet, we're told by the bill's supporters that we need legislation to protect ourselves from this kind of marriage? No, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a marriage-protection bill. It is emphatically an anti-marriage bill.

This rhetoric used by supporters of HF 2183 may be slick but it is grossly inaccurate. What are you trying to protect heterosexual marriages from?




 Fallon, continued

Original Graphics © 1997 by Jim-Davis Rosenthal


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