Trend Setting Iowa

My husband is from Iowa.  His parents live in a town of about 10,000 called Storm Lake in the Northwest corner of the state.  I’ve been going back and forth for many years.  The Iowa I used to see was a conservative, set in its ways kind of place that didn’t really welcome change.  But my view is shifting dramatically.  Iowa voters were prescient with their early support of Barack Obama.  I’ve found citizens working hard to co-exist with the new Hispanic populations that are flocking there to work in the meat packing plants.  And now the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that denying gay marriage violates constitutional rights to equal protection.  More and more Iowa is becoming a bellweather for the nation when it comes to social change and civil rights.

I mentioned how proud I was of Iowa and it’s progressive shift the other night at dinner and the table fell silent.  But Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column “Demi in Des Moines” ( isn’t silent at all.  She writes about how California used to be the nation’s trend setter but not anymore.  “Once the West Coast glowed with prosperity and was the harbinger of hip new things.  Now it’s in the grip of recession and repression.  California’s cool has been stolen by, of all places, Iowa.  White bread, corn fed, understated Iowa… now it’s flyover country that’s starting high-flying trends.”   Maybe this land dominated by reason and common sense is helping America come to its senses.  

Of course the fight is not over in the states that allow gay marriage or those that are considering it.  There are many galvanizing to oppose even the slightest momentum.  But they may not be able to stop the cascade of citizens and courts calling for fairness.  In presidential politics it is often said “as Iowa goes, so goes the nation.”  Will it hold true on the issue of gay marriage as well?  In it’s article “The Meaning of Iowa’s Gay Marriage Decision” (,8599,1889534-2,00.html) Time Magazine pointed out, “There might even be good news in the Iowa decision for gays in California, where activists are fearfully awaiting the justices’ ruling on Prop 8, which is likely to be issued in coming weeks. The Iowa decision cited the California case eight times and borrowed its reasoning again and again. That kind of homage from a sister court — and one that, like California’s, has a long history of breakthrough civil rights decisions — may strengthen the resolve of the majority in the Golden State and turn aside the narrow vote of the people.”

The tide may not be changing yet on gay marriage but it certainly is a sea change when conservative states like Iowa separate church and state then blow by California and New York in recognizing that the constitution really did intend equal protection for all.  Maybe the same citizens that voted for a new world order with Barack Obama are starting to weary of a country marked by divisiveness.  Or maybe with so many economic woes people realize there are much bigger things to worry about than same sex marriages by loving couples.  It might even be a boost for Iowa’s economy as gay couples move to the state which, along with its New England counterparts, is starting to brim with inclusiveness.  The ringing of the bell in little old Iowa is clanging loud and clear across the country.  Unanimous.  Affirmed:  All Justices Concur.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit  Also look for the report on Hispanic Immigration in Iowa on the page entitled Stories and Links.

3 thoughts on “Trend Setting Iowa

  1. Iowa has embarrassed California. And I am so sorry to say that. The good news for Californian’s is this: if Iowa can do it, so can we. We made an impact on Iowa and it is time to keep this momentum going. Besides, with so many people out of work why not focus some time on a civil rights issue? It may lead to a new career 😉

  2. Iowa still has a ways to go. I agree this is a step, but the protests have already begun. I was back in Storm Lake this past weekend and it was interesting to hear the radio broadcasts and the blantant opposition to the ruling. It was also interesting to hear my relatives speak negatively about the new populations coming in to work, paying no attention to the growth and expansion that they’ve seen in recent years. That town would be nearly abandoned if it weren’t for these newcomers. They should be embracing them as they have done wonders for their local economy.

  3. I agree this is only a step. I did a story a while back on Hispanic Immigration into Storm Lake for HDNet’s World Report. You can see it on my website at The change has been painful especially for those who are older but it’s inevitable and even though the co-existence is uneasy you have to applaud Iowa for dealing with it and making the best of a tough situation. People will kick and scream and protest but hopefully they will learn to live with change and progress.

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