Iowa Legalizes Gay Marriage. Where Does Conservative Outrage Go?

The Iowa Supreme Court has put religious conservatives in a bind.


By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Legalizing gay marriage in a culturally conservative heartland state, as the Iowa Supreme Court did today, would ordinarily provoke an immediate backlash, launching a movement to amend the state constitution to override the court's decision. It might even renew the national effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. But in the case of today's Iowa decision, no constitutions will be amended anytime soon.

That's because the earliest a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage could appear on the Iowa ballot is 2011. The state legislature must pass an amendment in two conservative sessions for it to land on the ballot. And with the Democrats who control both houses of the Iowa Legislature applauding today's ruling, even that timetable would seem overly expeditious.

With Democrats also in firm control of Congress, the Bush-era campaign religious conservatives waged to amend the U.S. Constitution has little chance of being revived. (Not to mention that the Republican Party has little stomach for beating the drum on social issues these days.).

There's been some talk of the conservative outrage being funneled into Iowa's first-in-the-nation GOP caucus in 2012, but it's hard to see how religious conservatives could expand their role in that contest beyond what it already is. After all, Mike Huckabee won there the last time around.

I'm fascinated to watch this story play out because it doesn't seem like there's anywhere for religious conservatives to go with their outrage. Is there a productive outlet for the anger that I'm overlooking?

  • Follow Dan Gilgoff on Twitter.
  • Read more about religion.