Saturday, April 4, 2009

Iowa: Gay Marriage Legalized!


Iowa's Supreme court unanimously voted to legalize gay marriage, striking down the decade long state ban against it! It's the third state in the country to legalize it (Massachusetts and Connecticut being the other two) and the first that is a rural state. This law will come into affect April 24th, which is when same-sex couples can get their marriage licenses. This decision, however, will not affect churches' decisions to perform religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Justice Mark S. Cady expressed the reasons behind the ruling: "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."

In 1998, one of Iowa's lower courts ruled that the state law defining marriage as being only between a man and women violates Iowa's constitutional right of equal protection. However, later in 2005, the Polk County Recorder, Timothy J. Brien, denied six same-sex couples the right to marry. These couples then filed a lawsuit that year against the Polk Country recorder. Again, in 2007, the Iowa District Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. Soon after, the county appealed its ruling. The county's argument was that because gay couples cannot procreate, they can be treated differently.

Really? That's the best they could come up with? Some women cannot reproduce and some men do not have enough sperm to impregnate women, would that then mean that they wouldn't be afforded the same rights as those who can? Of course not. All people who cannot reproduce don't have a choice- their bodies just can't perform that function. And because homosexuality is not a choice, gays and lesbians too do not have a choice on their abilities to reproduce. Their argument obviously was ridiculous and thankfully, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed.

Polk County is not going to seek a review and so anti gay marriage folks only have one other option: constitutional amendment. Liberty Counsel (ironic name) has already stated that it will advance a referendum to amend Iowa's constitution so that it will prohibit gay marriage. However, this action will take two years to take place.

Due to this victory, Lambda Legal, which is the law firm that filed the law suit against Iowa's gay marriage ban in 2005, stated "Justices look at opinions from other states. There's a significant likelihood that [the decision] will influence other states, like California. This is WONDERFUL news because there are a few states that are weighing gay marriage bills now: Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Maine. Furthermore, the California Supreme Court has to rule for or against gay marriage by June. Hopefully, Iowa's decision should act as another reminder to all those states that are dealing with the issue of gay marriage of how discriminatory and unjust the ban is.

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