Washington Post: How the gays won in Iowa
April 15, 2009
Today's Washington Post includes a fascinating, front-page article by Keith Richburg that retraces the steps Lambda Legal and other LGBT civil rights activists took to lay the groundwork for the Iowa Supreme Court to rule in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. The article mainly focuses on Lambda Legal attorney Camilla Taylor, a straight, married woman who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Varnum v. Brien case that led to the landmark Iowa Supreme Court decision. Indeed, many skeptics initially dismissed the idea of filing a marriage equality lawsuit in a rural, heartland state as a waste of time. However, the article details how Taylor considered Iowa's history as a barrier-breaking state and then put in place an effective multi-tier strategy with One Iowa, the state LGBT advocacy organization, and local talent to win her case:
When Taylor joined Lambda Legal's Midwest office in 2002, Iowa was hardly at the center of the marriage debate. Some people involved in gay rights efforts tried to tell Taylor she was wasting her time. Iowa was, they told her, a conservative, religious state in America's rural heartland, and the effort was better concentrated on the more liberal coasts. "There were many people telling us we were crazy," she said, "that we were foolhardy even thinking of filing a case, and that we might create a backlash." But as she immersed herself in Iowa's politics and history, she learned about its progressive past, including how the Hawkeye State was a pioneer in school desegregation, the first to admit a woman to its bar, and among the earliest to allow interracial marriage. Taylor soon went about laying the groundwork. She and her colleagues crisscrossed Iowa meeting gay and lesbian couples and organizing workshops and panels on issues that concerned them. She usually spoke as part of a panel that might include community members or the parents of a gay or lesbian child. Her colleagues did the same. ... "There wasn't a strong local group that would be the go-to group for organizing a campaign for marriage equality," said Sharon Malheiro, who founded the group One Iowa shortly after Taylor filed suit on behalf of the six couples. "If we were going to do this in Iowa, it had to be Iowans talking to Iowans," Malheiro said. One Iowa began coordinating with Taylor and Lambda Legal, with the local group taking over much of the public education effort.
We've covered on this blog how HRC joined with One Iowa during the presidential elections to conduct training sessions across the state of Iowa (for a review of our Iowa posts, click here ) for grassroots LGBT activists. Therefore, the day we raised the Iowa flag over our headquarters in celebration of the Iowa Supreme Court decision was a particularly meaningful one for us. As One Iowa Campaign Manager Brad Clark wrote in February, HRC members really helped make a difference in Iowa. Through the strategic and combined efforts of Lambda Legal, One Iowa and local activists, the movement for marriage equality now has new footing in America's heartland. And that's HOT.
May 23, 2013