A speech by Ed Fallon in opposition
to an Iowa Defense of Marriage Act
Iowa Rep. Ed Fallon (D-Des Moines) gave the following speech in
the Iowa House on 1996-FEB-20. It opposed bill HF 2183, a state Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) law.
Although the speech is now over a decade and a half old, it is still reflects the current
beliefs of many civil libertarians, sexual minorities religious liberals and
mainliners, secularists -- an most importantly of all by youth and young adults.
The DOMA law was later passed and signed into law.
Years later, Lambda Legal brought a
lawsuit on behalf of six Iowa same-sex couples. The case was argued on the basis of
the due process and equal protection clauses in the Iowa Constitution.
The Associated Press reported that:
"Iowa has a history of being in the forefront on social issues. It was among
the first states to legalize interracial marriage and to allow married women to
own property. It was also the first state to admit a woman to the bar to
practice law and was a leader in school desegregation." 1
On 2009-APR-03, the Iowa Supreme Court continued this civil rights heritage
when the justices unanimously determined that the
state's ban on same-sex marriage (SSM) was unconstitutional because it
violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa constitution.
began in that state during late 2009-APR. More details
The speech by Ed Fallon:
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 frolic 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
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
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
This rhetoric used by supporters of HF 2183 may be slick but it is
grossly inaccurate. What are you trying to protect heterosexual marriages
There isn't a limited amount of love in Iowa. It isn't a non-renewable
resource. If Amy and Barbara or Mike or Steve love each other, it doesn't
mean that John and Mary can't.
Marriage licenses aren't distributed on a first-come, first-served
basis here in Iowa. Heterosexual couples don't have to rush out and claim
marriage licenses now, before they are all snatched up by gay and lesbian
Heterosexual unions are and will continue to be predominant, regardless
of what gay and lesbian couples do. To suggest that homosexual couples in
any way, shape or form threaten to undermine the stability of heterosexual
unions is patently absurd.
And I know, you'll say: "What about the gay agenda?" Well, just as
there turned out to be no Bolsheviks in the bathroom back in the 1950s,
there is no gay-agenda in the 1990s. There is, however, a strong,
well-funded anti-gay agenda, and we have an example of its efforts here
before us today.
All that gay and lesbian people are asking for is, if not
understanding, then at least tolerance. All they are asking for is the
same basic civil equality that all Americans yearn for and should be
To those in this body who know in their hearts and consciences that
this bill is wrong, yet are afraid to vote against it, I ask you to
consider the powerful message this bill sends to the people of Iowa. It
sends the message that discrimination against gays and lesbians is
acceptable and officially sanctioned. It sends the message that it's OK
to deny civil and equal rights to some minority groups in our society. It
sends the message that the gift of marriage is good for some yet forbidden
to others. And for those in my own party who plan to vote for this bill,
it sends the message that Democrats, who have traditionally stood up for
and protected everyone's civil rights, aren't willing to do so in the case
If you are weighing the political consequences of opposing this bill
and find they are too heavy, I'd like you to think about the great moral
changes that have occurred in this country over the past 200 years. Ask
yourself when you would have felt safe to speak in favor of the separation
of the colonies from Great Britain? When would you have taken a public
stand for the abolition of slavery? When would you have spoken in favor
of women's suffrage? In the 1960s, when would you have joined Martin
Luther King and others in calling for equal rights for African Americans?
When would you have spoken out against restrictive marriage laws banning
While the choice before us today -- between a green button or a red one
- -- is a difficult one to make, it is nowhere near as difficult or
dangerous as the choices faced by the many freedom fighters who came
We're elected not to follow but to lead. We're elected to cast what
might sometimes be a difficult, challenging, and politically inexpedient
We're elected to represent our constituents when they're right, and to
vote our consciences regardless of whether our constituents are right.
And our conscience should be telling us to stand up for civil rights
regardless of how unpopular it may appear.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "A time comes when silence is
betrayal." Such a time is now. With your no vote on this bill, you can help
break the silence and stand with those who have no one to stand with them.
Thank you. 2
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
menu. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
Amy Lorentzen, "Iowa Court Ruling Legalizes Gay Marriage," Associated
Press, 2009-APR-05, at:
"Ed Fallon's Same-sex Marriage Speech," I'm For Iowa,
www.imforiowa.com This is no longer online.
Latest update: 2009-JUN-17