Iowa Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

This is what happens when I schedule early morning meetings…  Everyone else gets the good stories out first.

The ABA Journal, The Volokh Conspiracy and Professor Berry’s ever-timely Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog all wrote this morning to report on the Iowa Supreme Court striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.  The decision was unanimous.

The court ruled the ban violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution, according to the Associated Press and the Des Moines Register.

“Our responsibility … is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time,” the opinion (PDF) said.

I added the emphasis there in the last sentence because it reminded of Lawrence v Texas overruling Bowers v Hardwick.  Bowers had been invoked more times than I care to count for its “deeply rooted in our Nations history” standard/B.S., that had, until the Lawrence case, stood as an insurmountable barrier to the equal rights of more than the just the GLBT community.

“We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination” the Court stated.

The Court stated further.

The court stated that “a statute inconsistent with the Iowa constitution must be declared void even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion.”

Also interesting, according this story at the New York Times, is Iowa’s lack of a residency standard for marriage licenses…  I think you see where this is going.  Have you ever seen a Pride Parade adjacent to a cornfield?  Neither have I.  But I bet its pretty cool.

Above The Law writes:

Not surprisingly, a spokesperson for the Iowa Family Policy Center was deeply sadden [sic] that more people will be allowed to get married:

Bryan English, spokesman for the Iowa Family Policy Center, a conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage, said many Iowans are disappointed with the ruling and don’t want the courts to decide the issue.

“I would say the mood is one of mourning right now in a lot of ways, and yet the first thing we did after internalizing the decision was to walk across the street and begin the process of lobbying our legislators to let the people of Iowa vote,” Mr. English said. “This is an issue that will define (lawmakers’) leadership. This is not a side issue.”

Iowa is now the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages.

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