BREAKING– In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled the state law which forbids gay marriage in Iowa is unconstitutional. Six gay couples filed a lawsuit in 2005, arguing a state law which banned same-sex marriage was discriminatory. This morning at 8:30, the court issued its ruling on the case, making Iowa the first state in the Midwest and the fourth nationwide to offer marriage equality for gays and lesbians.
According to a summary briefing released by the Court communications officer:
“The decision strikes the language from Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman. It further directs that the remaining statutory language be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.”
Due to the many requests, Queerty is making available the full decision. You can download the PDF here.
The court made its ruling based on the equal protection clause of the state constitution and framed today’s decision as part of Iowa’s long history of ensuring equal rights, “striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women’s rights”. The Court made the case that “strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion” were not enough a reason to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry.
Furthermore, the Court rejected the Polk County’s attorney’s argument that gays and lesbians didn’t deserve equal protection because they were not “similarly situated”– that is, comparable to straight couples. In their decision, the Court wrote, “No two people or groups of people are the same in every way, and nearly every equal protection claim could be run aground [under] a threshold analysis” that requires the two groups “be a mirror image of one another.”
The court also rejected the idea that marriage must be preserved for tradition alone writing:
“When a certain tradition is used as both the governmental objective and the classification to further that objective, the equal protection analysis is transformed into the circular question of whether the classification accomplishes the governmental objective, which objective is to maintain the classification.”
To top it all off, the Court went out of its way to reject many of the arguments usually levied at gay marriage: That gay marriage harms children, that marriage is for procreation, that gay marriage somehow destabilized heterosexual marriage and that gay marriage infringes on religious freedom.
What It Means
The most immediate impact is that starting three weeks from now, on April 24th, gays and lesbians in Iowa will be able to get married, but the decision is likely to reverberate across the political spectrum in the coming days. Iowa’s status as a bellwether for the nation makes today’s decision a massive blow to the social conservative movement, which can not dismiss Iowa as a liberal coastal bastion.
The nature of the decision is likely to reignite the marriage debate nationally; the justices voiced their opinion in the stark tone of equal rights and though we’ve only been staring at the decision for a few minutes, it’s by far, the most full-throated argument for gay marriage penned by any court nationwide. It will be a landmark ruling, not just in Iowa, but across the nation.
Any attempt by the state legislature to create a constitutional ban on gay marriage will take some time. With Iowa’s legislative session nearly at its end and constitutional amendments requiring a approval by two consecutive legislative sessions before coming up for a vote, it’ll be 2012 at least before the state legislature could take up the issue.
In practical terms, this delay is critical as it allows Iowans to adjust to the ruling. In California, there was less than six months from when the Supreme Court ruled to allow gay marriage to the decision by a slim majority of voters to ban marriage equality.
“The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels. I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state. Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people.”
Democratic Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines, who is openly gay:
“I’m off the wall. I’m very pleased to be an Iowan.”
Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal, which argued the case:
“What a thrilling day! The Iowa Supreme Court ruled this morning that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in Iowa. This historic decision fulfills the Iowa Constitution’s promises of liberty and equality. We are so proud of the courageous plaintiffs and their families who stood up for love, dignity and equal treatment under the law.”
Alexander Robinson, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition:
“Iowa has a strong tradition of protecting individual freedom and civil rights. We are not at all surprised that the State which launched President Obama’s election campaign has joined the ranks of states that recognize the fundamental dignity of the lives of lesbian and gay Americans.”
The decision is the number one topic on Twitter. You can read the latest updated here.
At the Des Moines Register, readers are voraciously commenting on the decision, with some writing things like “Sick, Sick, Sick”, but others responding more thoughtfully:
“I am 20 years old and straight, but have many gay friends. I have watch my friends get beaten up only because they were gay, at just 16 years old I drove a friend to the hospital with broken ribs because a 28 year old man decided he didn’t like the fact he was gay. Parents have disowned and even killed their children when they find out they are gay. I even met a girl whos’ [sic] uncle raped her thinking that it would maker her straight when I did volunteer work for a shelter one summer. There are so many other horror stories that these people have had to deal with.
So it seems to me that they are not the monsters in this situation and they deserve every right they have coming to them. They are still humans and they deserve to be treated as such. It is crazy for me to think that we will let murderers, drugdealers [sic], and psychopathes [sic] to get married but worry about homosexuals. I am proud that we are alowing [sic] these people in love to get married, I hope they have tuns of babies too.”
Stay with Queerty throughout the day for more on this landmark decision.