Three weeks ago in Des Moines, the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) held their annual conference. One of the speakers was Bob Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman who ran as the Republican Gubernatorial candidate in Iowa in 2002 and 2006, losing the position as the primary candidate to to Doug Gross and Jim Nussle respectively. Vander Plaats is expected to be a candidate in 2010.
According to NICHE’s website, the title of Vander Plaats’ speech was “How Redefining Marriage Affects Homeschoolers.” Vander Plaats has been a vocal opponent of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the same-sex marriage ban since the ruling was issued. And according to NICHE’s website they have been very opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision. In fact there was a rally that I remember reading about in the Des Moines Register that NICHE held to protest the decision that was attended by “faithful homeschoolers.” Apparently, my mother, who is accepting of gays and has no problems with the Supreme Court’s decision, is not a faithful homeschooler. It should also be noted that Vander Plaats was one of the speakers at the rally.
On Wednesday, ACCESSline, which is Iowa’s GLBT newspaper, posted on their Twitter feed an audio clip from Vander Plaats speech. (You can listen to it here) In short, his speech claims that because the Iowa Supreme Court cited the equal protection clause in the Iowa Constitution to legalize same-sex marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court could take away a parent’s right to homeschool.
I listened to it that evening and one of my first thoughts was, “Did Bob Vander Plaats even read the Supreme Court’s ruling?”
Article I, Section 6 of the Iowa Constitution says this:
All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.
Vander Plaats suggests in his speech that a public school parent could file a lawsuit saying that children being able to go to a private school or being able to be homeschooled violates the equal protection clause and therefore, the Iowa Supreme Court could take away the ability to send your child to a private school or homeschool your child.
I am aware of the fact that this is the same man who incorrectly told people that if he was the Governor of Iowa he would amend the constitution to overturn a ruling that was upholding the constitution. I am also aware of the stereotype that all politicians lie. But this is nuts.
All children in the state of Iowa that meet the age requirements can attend public school. The parents that send their children to private school or homeschool their children simply opt out of this program. If a child was denied the ability to enroll in a public school and he met all of the residency requirements or age requirements, the court could order the school district to allow him to be able to attend because all children are given that right to receive an education. If a parent wanted to homeschool their child and they fit the compulsory age requirements and the parent meets all of the state of Iowa’s laws that would enable him or her to educate their child and the school district denied them that ability because it would be detrimental to society, the courts could force the school district to allow the parents to home school their child. Why? Because while there are laws regulating home schooling in Iowa–you can read a good summary here from the Home School Legal-Defense Association–everyone who meets the state’s laws are able to home school their children.
On page 8 of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum vs. Brien, it says,
“Except for the statutory restriction that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the twelve plaintiffs met the legal requirements to marry in Iowa.”
The couples in the case met the requirements at that time to marry in Iowa except for the fact that both partners were of the same sex. If anyone is curious, you can read chapter 595 of the Iowa Code of Law, which discusses marriage. As much as it may upset some people, according to the constitution, the law that said that marriage could only be between one man and one woman was unconstitutional because it denied that right to some Iowans. The same thing goes with the hypothesis I presented; if that did happen, the Iowa Supreme Court could rule that unconstitutional because it would deny that right, the right to give a child a good education, to some Iowans.
That’s the problem with Vander Plaats’ hypothesis. As I said earlier, all children that meet the compulsory age requirements are given the ability to attend public school. There are just some parents that opt out of that option because they feel that it is in their child’s best interest for them to be educated in a private religious school, or to be educated at home.
As someone who lives in Iowa and covered the Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum vs. Brien, I understand that the ruling will probably be a huge issue in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In fact, the Supreme Court’s ruling acknowledged in a footnote on page 64 that a survey conducted by the Register showed that a majority of Iowans at the time that the survey was done were not in favor of same-sex marriages. However, if you are going to push the issue as a candidate, please get your facts and logic straight because not all voters are going to pull out the Iowa Code of Law, Constitution, and all 69 pages of Varnum vs. Brien.