Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover

Putting the Historic Iowa Victory in Perspective

Filed By Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover | April 04, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: eQualityGiving, Iowa, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

The Iowa Supreme Court ruling stating that not allowing same sex couples to marry in the state was unconstitutional is historical because it is the first time in which a marriage equality ruling by a State Supreme Court was unanimous. All the other marriage equality cases in the United States have been won or lost by just one vote.

Congratulations to Lambda Legal and the other legal organizatons who helped for this long sought victory. Congratulations also to One Iowa who led the grassroots movement there.

The decision

This decision directs the executive branch to immediately grant marriage licenses to same sex couples and the legislature to modify any statutes that do not comply with this ruling.

Furthermore, it makes an important argument: that religious objections cannot be counted because not all religions object to same sex marriage. This is an important argument to repeat to others.

The full text of the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court on same sex marriage equality is available on our website. Also, you can read a six page summary from the office of communications of the Iowa Supreme Court summarizing the decision on the right of same sex couples to marry in Iowa.

Heartland family values

In the Heartland of America, family values means that people do not want discrimination---not for their children and not for their friends and other family members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Iowa now has a rating of 5.5 out of 6 in our equality scorecard of every state. The only thing preventing them from getting a full equality score of 6 is that adoption recognition depends on the jurisdiction.

Only two other states have the same score of 5.5 (and none have a perfect 6): California and New Jersey. Both can reach the perfect 6 when they convert their domestic partnerships and civil unions, respectively, to full marriage equality.

Test your knowledge of equality in your state (or any state) by taking our Gay and Equal quiz (this takes about 60 seconds).

Overturning the decision

Fortunately, amending the constitution in Iowa is difficult, since it needs to start in the legislature. We applaud the Democratic Party of Iowa, who, for many years now, has had in their platform the right of same sex couples to marry. Their leadership is so clear and laudable that we quote it here in its entirety:

This is 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."

The Heartland of America understands and supports full equality.

Now is the time for Congress to support full equality for all Americans as outlined in our Omnibus Equality Bill (the Equality & Religious Freedom Act).


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please read the entire decision. It's worth it. I did and I smiling through the whole thing. The Iowa Supreme Court went step by step through each of the oft used objections to marriage equality and showed, using LOGIC, that none ofthose objections stood up to the test.

Iowa has provided a completely logical path here that should be used by EVERY court in the future for decisions about marriage equality.

As timcguy points out, this opinion is very worth reading.

Note in particular:

- Pages 51 to 63 about the reasons the government thinks that we should not be able to marry and the unanimous response of the court.

- Pages 63 to 67 about the argument that marriage is a religious instituion.

You can download here the unanimous opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court regarding same sex marriage: http://www.equalitygiving.org/files/Marriage-Equality-Same-Sex-Lesbian-Gay-Marriage/07-1499.pdf