Political Mercury

March 31st, 2011 |

By Douglas Burns


Vander Plaats' bill would mandate all straight Iowans marry


Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats has proposed ground-breaking legislation mandating that all Iowans between the ages of 17 and 70 enter into - or provide certain documents to verify they're part of - a traditional, heterosexual marriage in order to maintain state citizenship.

Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman, says the proposal should take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Anyone living inside the state's borders who remains single or pursues what Vander Plaats termed "non-Biblical, sexually expedient" relationships still could reside in Iowa but would be barred from voting in state and local elections and would have to pay out-of-state tuition to the Regents institutions.

" Traditional marriage is at the foundation of the American experience, and for that matter, of any civilized society," Vander Plaats said.

Buoyed by his success in leading the ouster last November of Iowa Supreme Court justices who support gay marriage, an emboldened Vander Plaats opted to attack the "single lifestyle," which he clearly believes is a crack in the door to experimental homosexuality if not an outright commitment to it.

Vander Plaats also expressed concern that women, particularly younger ones, would stray from Christian-based living if they are not in a committed marriage before they enter college where "a toxic mixture of sex and beer and Internet-fed urges" confounds efforts at family building.

" The man is clearly the leader of the family organization," Vander Plaats said. "A lot of women conveniently forget this, but it's in the Bible. We are the shot-callers. Got a problem with that? Take it up with Jesus, not me."

As part of the legislative package, known broadly as the Iowa Marriage Initiative, Vander Plaats would seek to yank funding from Planned Parenthood and finance so-called "marriage consortiums." With the consortiums, those Iowans who are not married could attend monthly state-sponsored "marriage rallies" in which men and women would line up - white robes for the men; white, ankle-length dresses for the women - and march toward an altar and join in unions with whomever was in the corresponding space in the line across from them.

Vander Plaats defended the random assigning of spouses for the unmarried under his program as a "cultural emergency management system" necessary to overcome a decades-long degradation of marriage.

In these old-school, mass marriages - known as the "Emporia System" in reference to a religious cult that operated in the 1980s in the Kansas city of the same name - Republicans, and particularly those who donated heavily to GOP campaigns, would be discreetly shuffled in the lines to ensure they were matched with hotter wives.

" Look, we're going to make sure the Republican men get younger, hotter wives," said one Vander Plaats associate. "As for single, Democratic men, well, sorry to laugh here, but these guys better be into thick ankles and scarecrow faces with their chicks. When we do this, Democrats will be less likely to reproduce, and that means fewer white Democrats at the polls in 20 years - which we have to do to counterbalance all the Hispanic growth."

Divorces under the Vander Plaats' marriage structure would be "safe, legal and rare," said the Republican, borrowing, ironically, the language of equivocation used by President Bill Clinton in staking out a pro-choice position on abortion during his administration in the 1990s.

A three-person Iowa Divorce Council, appointed by the governor but with required approval of the State Senate, would review all requests for dissolutions of marriage.

Domestic abuse prevention advocates immediately took issue with that element of the plan, saying women could be shackled in abusive marriages under the new regime.

" Look, I'm not saying some men don't take their family leadership roles too far," Vander Plaats said. "But this a greater good project here. Regrettable incidents are going to occur. But divorce is never the answer. Women should really try to just walk it off."

Sources say Vander Plaats was unsuccessful in inserting a provision into the proposed new Iowa marriage rules that would make infidelity a Class C felony.

" OK, to be honest, we really wanted this fidelity charge in the bill," said a source close to the Vander Plaats team. "But if we start requiring fidelity in marriage, the Republican Party simply won't be able to field any presidential candidates. That's just the reality on the ground in Republican politics today."

Douglas Burns, the biological son of an unwed teen mother, was adopted as a baby in Cedar Rapids. Burns, now a co-owner of the Carroll Daily Times Herald, is the author of the upcoming book "Bastards: Who Needs Families. How Unwanted Children Shaped The World."