April 3, 2009

Congratulations Iowa

This morning, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down that state's ban against same-sex marriages. The complete opinion of Varnum, et. al. v. Brien (Iowa Sup. Ct. No. 07-1499, April 3, 2009) can be read here.

Interestingly, it is a unanimous decision. The basis of the decision was an interpretation of the Equal Protections Clause of the state constitution.

Even more interestingly, the General Assembly in Iowa (which is controlled by Democrats) appears to have no interest in responding to the decision and the leaders of the Democratic majority caucuses in both houses of the Iowa General Assembly praised it. (Democrats have a 12 seat majority in the lower house, the 100-seat Iowa House of Representatives, and a 14 seat majority in the upper house, the 50-seat Iowa Senate.)

Finally, Iowa does not have an initiative process like California. Since the Legislature does not appear to be of a mind to do anything about the decision, the Governor is powerless (and apparently at least moderately sympathetic to it) and there is no avenue open for an initiative to overturn the decision, there is good reason to think that this will stand for some time.

I never thought I'd see the day that Iowa was more progressive than California. Actually, California's vote was quite close on the issue and our Supreme Court did get there before Prop. 8 overturned the Marriage Cases. But here it is -- Iowa, a socially conservative midwestern state, gets same-sex marriage while California, traditionally one of the most liberal states in the union, does not. Iowa joins Massachusetts and Connecticut as states recognizing same-sex marriages.

There is also apparently some movement in New York towards adopting same-sex marriage, with Democrats taking control of the State Senate there, and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and the Governor and both of New York's Senators, including Republican (see comments) Kristen Gillibrand, reversing prior positions to support same-sex marriage there.

Congratulations to all the happy couples in Iowa who now get to be married just like their straight neighbors. It's been a long time coming for you, too and you deserve your moment of celebration. As for the rest of Iowa, watch and see how nothing happens to the rest of you. Meanwhile, I'll continue to regret that California, by less than a 2% margin, put itself out of step with with movement to expand and recognize equal rights for gay people.

6 comments:

Ken said...

And despite the fact that this was a state court decision, by judges appointed by the governor of the statue, applying state precedent to the state constitution, and potentially reversible through a constitutional amendment through the state political process, this will be touted as showing the need for a federal constitutional amendment to protect federalism.

graggg said...

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

S said...

Don't forget, Ken, that there will also undoubtedly be calls to change the way those darn activist judges are selected.

I'm impressed that they were able to issue a unanimous opinion.

You know, my parents were married in Iowa. Somehow I don't think they feel any less married right now than they did this morning. I'd guess, in fact, that they enjoy their marriage just a little more right now, knowing that other good people of Iowa will finally be able to experience the joy and security that marriage has provided them these past 45 years.

Joshua Johanson said...

It is one thing to say gay people should be able to marry whoever they want, and completely other thing to say they are incapable of a fulfilling relationship with a member of the opposite sex. The Supreme Court decision read "Under such a law, gay or lesbian individuals cannot simultaneously fulfill their deeply felt need for a committed personal relationship." I'm very happily married to a woman and very fulfilled even though I am primarily attracted to men. For Iowa to say I am incapable of such a relationship is discriminatory. I wish they could have just said that anyone should be able to marry anyone they chose rather than saying I am incapable of loving my wife.

David Schraub said...

Kristen Gillibrand is most certainly not a Republican

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I stand corrected on that point. Thank you, David.