Joe Mirabella

Take Action: Protect Marriage Equality in Iowa

Filed By Joe Mirabella | July 15, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Marriage Equality
Tags: Iowa, Iowa Governor, marriage equality, politics, Terry Branstad

One Iowa launched a new campaign called "Letters to Mr. Branstad." Terry Branstad is a former Iowa governor who was brought out of political retirement to challenge the current Governor of Iowa, Chet Culver.

I have my money on Branstad. Culver has lost the support of the voters for a variety of reasons. The economy in the state continues to suffer, flood recovery from the destructive 2008 flood is too slow, and the major political forces in the state think he is an ineffective leader.

Branstad on the other hand, was a relatively good governor. He was governor for most of my youth and young adulthood. While he is a Republican, he is a moderate. How he stands on Iowa's gay and lesbian marriage equality is a mystery to One Iowa. He continues to send mixed signals.

One Iowa wisely launched a campaign to directly contact Mr. Branstad so we can share our stories.

My letter to the former Governor after the jump:

Dear Mr. Brandstad,

You probably do not remember the first time we met. I was a child and a student at Nixon Elementary School. You came to speak to our school because we won the Presidential Education Excellence Award. You shook my hand in the crowded school gym. I smiled because I was proud to meet the Governor.

I met you again at the Governor's Mansion. My mother was an invited guest as I recall. I was still young, but I played with your kids on the tire swing on the giant oak tree at Terrace Hill.

Later in high school, I decided to volunteer for my State Representative, Chuck Larson, Jr. He was young and I was impressed by his energy. I was considering a career in politics, so I hoped to learn from him. I did. I learned a lot.

He introduced me to you in your office at the Iowa Capitol. He told you, "This is Joe Mirabella. He is the future Governor of Iowa." We all laughed, but I believed for a moment in the possibility. But inside, I thought that wouldn't be possible because I was holding onto a secret. I was gay.

We met several more times. We were at a quiet fundraiser at someone's home. You and I sat on the back porch with my little brother. I asked you about how you became Governor. You talked about law school at Drake University and how important school was. I listened and I studied hard.

In college, I decided I would abandon politics. I thought I had no choice. I came out of the closet and decided there was no room for me if I was honest. I was clearly wrong, but that's what I thought because at the time.

After college, I moved to Washington State with my partner. We came here because we wanted to live in a place that was welcoming and kind. We took our good Iowa educations with us. We are part to the "brain drain" you spoke about when you were Governor.

When the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that gay and lesbian couples had a constitutional right to marry in April 2009, my partner and I were home. We proposed to each other on the steps of the Iowa Capitol where you and I once met.

We have tickets to come home to Iowa again next week. A marriage license is waiting for us in Iowa City. I am committed to my partner, and am excited about the legal recognition our home state will give us. We are proud to call Iowa home, because it is an equality state.

Mr. Bransted, if you return to the Governor's mansion, please look out at the old oak tree and think of Iowa's children. Some of them are gay. Some of them have gay parents who are married. Please, give them the confidence to know they can do or be anyone they want to be. Do not take Iowa back to the past. Please preserve marriage equality.

Thank you and best wishes.

Your old friend,

Joe Mirabella

UPDATE: I was reminded this morning that Terry Branstad signed the 1998 State DOMA law that the Iowa Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2009. By writing, "he was a relatively good governor," I in no way meant to excuse his decision. Branstad was Governor from 1983 - 1999. I think it fair to say, that he did a "relatively" good job for Iowans to keep him around as long as they did. However, if he continues to support a constitutional amendment, I hope Iowans vote alternatively.

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JT in the Army | July 15, 2010 10:13 AM

Um- it wasnt illegal to be gay in Iowa during Branstad's time as governor, sodomy had been decriminalized under Iowa code years before he was governor.

I did some additional fact checking. It turns out that it is not as clear cut as either of us thought.Sodomy laws came and went throughout Iowa's history. After 1986 there were no sodomy laws. However,during the time period I wrote about, it was widely believed that there were sodomy laws in Iowa by most of my gay friends. We believed we were illegal. The misconception persisted until Lawarance vs Texas convinced us otherwise, apparently.


Branstad on the other hand, was a relatively good governor. He was governor for most of my youth and young adulthood. While he is a Republican, he is a moderate. How he stands on Iowa's gay and lesbian marriage equality is a mystery to One Iowa.
Really? He signed the Iowa mini-DOMA that was declared unconstitutional in Varnum v. Brien.

You are right. That was unforgivable. I should have made that more clear in this post. I will add an update. I was thinking about the 80s. He was Governor for a long, long time. Thanks for the reminder.

Iowa's sodomy law was declared by the IA Sup Ct to be inapplicable to heteros in the early 1970s. The 1975-76 legislative session overhauled the state's criminal code, eliminating the sodomy law; the code revision took effect in Jan. 1977 (six months after the transsexual birth certificate statute, passed - almost unanimously -by that same legislature, went into effect.)

My understanding is that Terry Branstad supports the idea of letting gay marriage be decided by the voters of Iowa.However he doesn't support voting out the judges who overturned Varnum vs Brien.Nor does he support Bob Vanderplatts idea of a Governors executive order barring gay marriage.I personally believe if he is elected and puts gay marriage on the Iowa ballot we will lose.You really want to scare yourself go to and read the Iowa Republican party platform.