Friday, April 03, 2009

Wedding Bells In Iowa-- Gay Marriage Ban Overturned By Supreme Court


Early this morning the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the state constitution. Discriminating against same-sex couples, as the 1989 law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman only, was unanimously struck down by the judges who ruled that it violated the constitution's equal protection clause.
The decision makes Iowa the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages. Lawyers for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group that financed the court battle and represented the couples, had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America.

Here's a .pdf file that summarizes the supreme court's ruling.

This follows landslide victories for same sex marriage in Vermont and for civil unions in Hawaii, although in each case-- a procedural impediment in the Hawaii legislature and a homophobic Republican governor in Vermont-- same sex marriage will have to wait. (There is a slight chance that the promised veto by Gov. James Douglas can be overridden.) The bill to allow same sex marriage cleared the state Senate by a 26-4 vote and the House by a 95-52 margin. Next door in New Hampshire a same-sex marriage bill passed the House and is being considered by the Senate.

State legislatures in Delaware and West Virginia both killed bids by far right religionist fanatics to pass constitutional amendments that would band same-sex marriage. We still have some time before Utah, Texas, Mississippi, New York or either Dakota allows gay marriage. We were unable to reach Mark Sanford for comment.

People for the American Way has a new president, a good friend of mine, Michael Keegan. I imagine this is his first official announcement since taking the helm:
The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision is a historic affirmation of equality. It’s a joyous day for the Iowa families involved in the case, and for equality advocates in Iowa and across the nation.  Congratulations to the courageous couples who challenged unfair and unconstitutional discrimination, and to One Iowa, Lambda Legal, and all their allies. We were glad to support their work in this case... Americans rely on independent courts to uphold constitutional principles, and that’s what the Iowa Supreme Court did today. The Court did its job. This ruling protects Iowa families. And it reaffirms the state’s tradition as a leader in ending historic forms of discrimination.

...The Iowa Supreme Court justices clearly and respectfully addressed those with religious objections to same-sex marriage. This ruling upholds two core constitutional principles, religious liberty and equality under the law, and makes it clear that there is no contradiction between the two.

UPDATE: Reactions From The Two Iowas

Here's a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today’s Supreme Court decision:
Thanks to today’s decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens’ equal rights.

The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.

When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.

Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.

Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.

Iowa's worst big name bigot has already weighed in, of course. Raving reactionary Steve King: "Now it is the Iowa legislature’s responsibility to pass the Marriage Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, clarifying that marriage is between one man and one woman, to give the power that the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself back to the people of Iowa. Along with a constitutional amendment, the legislature must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca due to the Supreme Court’s latest experiment in social engineering.”

UPDATE: So Who's A Valiant Leader And Who's A Pathetic Coward?

I liked the joint statement from the heads of the legislature (above). Bigger name Iowa Democrats, regardless of how they feel personally about justice, reacted more cautiously and in a way that was kind of weasel-like. Oh, except Dave Loebsack; he was the one Iowa national Democrat who voiced unequivocal support: "The unanimous Supreme Court decision should be respected as a continuation of Iowa’s long-standing national leadership in ending discrimination and protecting the rights of all of our citizens."
"This ruling marks a big change in how our state defines marriage, which is both unsettling to many Iowans and welcome to many others," said Rep. Bruce Braley (D), a centrist serving his second term.

Braley would not take a position on the decision, but said that people, regardless of “race, creed, sex or sexual orientation,” should not face discrimination.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D), one of the more liberal members of the Senate, said he would support the court’s decision, despite his own view that marriage is between a man and a woman. He does support civil unions between same-sex couples.

"The court found that it is necessary to afford same-sex couples the ability to marry in order to allow them those legal protections and benefits.  I will respect and support that decision and I hope that other Iowans can do the same," Harkin said.

He noted that the decision may be hard for some Iowans to accept, but that at the same time will afford same-sex couples and families “important rights.”

Even Gov. Chet Culver (D) reserved judgment, going further than other Democrats in suggesting the ruling may not be allowed to stand. He said the court addressed a “complicated and emotional issue” that elicits strong views on both sides.

"The next responsible step is to thoroughly review this decision, which I am doing with my legal counsel and the attorney general, before reacting to what it means for Iowa," Culver said.

Rep. Tom Latham, who represents liberal Ames, joined Steve King in Know Nothing demagoguery against gay people. Non-leaders Senator Chuck Grassley (R) and Republican Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog) hid under their beds and refused to take calls.

Meanwhile, Nate Silver predicts that in 2024 even Mississippi will loosen up on the gay marriage hysteria! New England will be entirely bigotry free, at least in this manifestation, much sooner.

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At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iowa Supreme Court said gay-YES!
See the actual video.

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Ringbearer said...

Go Iowa, Go! Congratulations from

At 7:52 PM, Blogger RightDemocrat said...

A bad decision that should have been left to the voters. Democrats cannot afford to waste political capital on this issue. I hope that many Democratic elected officials take a stand on behalf of traditional family values.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous bil said...

Iowa, flat but fair.

RightDemocrat does this mean that we could have left the Bush 2000 Selection to the half a million or more that voted for Kerry? Could have saved a lot of lives.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Juan Liberale said...

Outrageous. Any day now we will see straight people engaging in same sex marriage, just because they can.

Everyone knows that conservative men only marry women because it is illegal for them to do otherwise.

This is the United States. Bigotry will almost always prevail.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who'da thunk it? This make me proud of the midwest.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger RightDemocrat said...

Bil, Sure we would have been better off if the majority opinion had ruled in the 2000 election and yesterday in Iowa. This decision is going to end up hurting Democrats in Middle America.

I have always supported fairness for gays and lesbians but draw the line at same sex marriage. The public simply isn't ready this. Look at the approval of gay marriage bans in California and Florida as Obama was winning those states. Voters from core Democratic consituencies were backing the traditonal marriage protection initiatives.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Joel said...

RightDemocrat said, "I have always supported fairness for gays and lesbians but draw the line at same sex marriage. The public simply isn't ready this."

That's the point at the heart of this issue. Because the public isn't ready for this, doesn't mean its the wrong thing to do. As he said in the original post, Iowa has a long history of doing "the right thing" long before the public was ready for it. In retrospect, its easy to see those decisions were the right things to do.

The purpose of the Iowa Supreme Court is to make a decision based on the Constitution and not on public opinion. That's the beauty of our system of government and, at least in Iowa, it works.

"Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain."


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