Merlin Bartz, Iowa State Senator

This man does not believe your family should be treated the same as other families.

Merlin Bartz, a state Senator in Iowa, is trying to block the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from changing the wording of regulations regarding camping sites at state parks.   The regulations in question refer to the ability of a family group to pitch more than one tent in a campsite.  In one part of the regulations, a reference is made to “mother, father, children”.   “They’re citing the Supreme Court case and changing, you know, ‘husband and wife’ language to ’spouse,’ ” Bartz is quoted at RadioIowa. (He’s not even getting the regulation he doesn’t want changed correct!  It’s clear it’s not well functioning state campsites he’s worried about!)

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in April 2009 that denying same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The court overturned the Iowa Defense of Marriage Act, in effect legalizing same sex marriage.  The ruling was unanimous. As government agencies move to make their regulations reflect the law, right wing forces have tried to prevent those changes.

Even after we’ve won, we can’t relax our vigilance.  The forces of hate will still be out there, and they’ll still think we’re evil.

Senator Bartz, along with the Iowa Family Policy Center,  called for county recorders to defy the court ruling, and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller pointed out that county recorders do not have that authority,  and no couples were denied licenses.   Bartz also tried to insert language into a bill that would allow county recorders to refuse to issue licenses as a “matter of conscience” without fear of prosecution.  That language was ruled out of order.

The anti-gay crowd will try every tactic, follow every lead, tell every lie they can in their attempts to prevent the recognition of our civil rights.  Whether it be a minor thing like fighting changes to the wording of camp site regulations, to trying to overturn court rulings, they will fight us every way they can.   We have to resist these attempts whenever they occur, and make sure our families are protected.  Even those who are single must engage in this struggle, because we are part of a larger “family”, and one should always stand up for family, especially when it’s right.

Locally, some of our family in Porterville are experiencing the hate on a personal level.  Activists (even those who might not consider themselves as activists) are being harassed online and over the phone.  Standing up for what’s right may expose you to the directed hatred of others, but they often hide behind anonymity and distance.  Some of them must be confronted directly if the occasion arises, but often the best way to deal with harassment is simply to ignore it.  The powerless often express frustration in harassment, but if they get no response, they often loose interest and move on to other targets.  Those in positions of power must sometimes be confronted directly, however.  Public comment sessions, newspaper letters, political rallies, public protests, and the new journalism of blogging are all avenues of expression that must be used to confront the forces of hate.

The best way for individuals to stand up for all of us, is to come out.  It’s very difficult for haters to maintain their hate, when a loved one is out.  There may be a period of time where things are tense and hostile, but eventually most come around.  They can’t hold onto their misconceptions and bigotry when you stand before them in stark contradiction to everything they have thought  in the past.  You are our strongest weapon in the struggle, simply by being you, and letting the people you care about know who you are.  It’s tough, sometimes it doesn’t work out well, and there may be a price to bear that is higher than what you deserve, but in the long run, it’s best for you and that’s what’s important.  Hiding in the closet prevents you from being yourself, and denies the people closest to you the chance to love you for who you are, not who you project.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Bartz and people like him will continue to work against us.  We must continue to push back, to stand up to the haters, and demand that which is our due.