Alex Blaze

Iowa legalizes gay marriage

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 03, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: bisexual, gay marriage, iowa, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, supreme court, transgender, varnum

The court's site is down, but the Des Moines Register is reporting that same-sex marriage has come to Iowa. Congrats!

The Iowa Supreme Court this morning struck down a 1998 state law that limits marriage to one man and one woman.

The ruling is viewed as a victory for the gay rights movement in Iowa and elsewhere, and a setback for social conservatives who wanted to protect traditional families.

The decision makes Iowa the first Midwestern state, and the fourth nationwide, to allow same-sex marriages. Lawyers for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group that financed the court battle and represented the couples, had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America.

Update: A few more points from the Des Moines Register:

  • Iowa will be given two or three months to implement the decision.

  • Conservatives plan to go for a constitutional amendment, but the soonest that could happen is 2012.

  • Haha:

    Steve Davis, a court spokesman, said administrators added extra computer servers to handle the expected increase in Web traffic. But "this is unprecedented," Davis said.

    Well, the message got out soon enough anyway.

Update 2: If you still can't access the Supreme Court's site, you can read the summary and opinion on the Des Moines Register's site.

The ruling came down to equal protection.

Under Iowa's tripartite system of government, courts give respect to the legislative process and presume its enactments are constitutional. The deference afforded to legislative policy-making is manifested in the level of scrutiny applied to review legislative action. In most equal protection cases, the court applies a very deferential standard known as the "rational basis test." Under this test, "[t]he plaintiff has the heavy burden of
showing the statute unconstitutional and must negate every reasonable basis upon which the classification may be sustained." Classifications based on race, alienage, or national origin and those affecting fundamental rights are, however, evaluated under a "strict scrutiny" standard. Classifications subject to strict scrutiny are presumptively invalid and must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest.

The court also recognized that an intermediate tier has been applied to statutes classifying persons on the basis of gender or illegitimacy. Under this level of scrutiny, a party seeking to uphold the statute must demonstrate the challenged classification is substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental objective.

Also, sexual orientation is now a suspect class now in Iowa:

In its analysis, the court found each factor supported a finding that classification by sexual orientation warranted a heightened scrutiny. The court, citing historical as well as present-day examples, concluded that gay and lesbian people as a group have long been the victim of purposeful and invidious discrimination because of their sexual orientation. There was no evidence that the characteristic that defines the members of this group--sexual orientation--bears any logical relationship to their ability to perform productively in society, either in familial relations or otherwise. Addressing the issue of immutability, the court found sexual orientation to be central to personal identity and that its alteration, if at all, could only be accomplished at the expense of significant damage to the individual's sense of self. This, the court concluded, would be wholly unacceptable for the government to require anyone to do. Finally, the court found that, despite their securing of significant legal protections against discrimination in recent years, gay and lesbian people have not become so politically powerful as to overcome the unfair and severe prejudice that produces discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Update 3:

Time for some actual Freeper commentary, presented for your amusement (they haven't had much time to explode, but it's starting):




This is fully expected in the nutbar places like New England and California. But Iowa? This is about as disturbing a news article as I could have ever imagined.

Prop 8...make it a constitutional change and the black robes can't be run by the lavender mafia.

Ergo polygamy and everything else must now be allowed, too.

Hey wasn't Iowa ....BO's claim to fame !!
Can we scratch Iowa off the map ??

And OneNewsNow has a story up, with the quote marks around marriage, calling Lambda Legal a "New York-based homosexula rights organization."

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I'm reading the full judgement now. It's a great character piece, and it is making me a little teary.

The fact that the judges ruled unanimously says a lot to me.

Happy Friday!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 3, 2009 11:35 AM

Very moving, but I do hope that outside of liberal portions of the state couples and individuals are extra careful. Not just to acts of vandalism, but physical danger. So much of Iowa consists of isolated pockets of people with retarded points of view.

Ever been to Ottumwa? Don't bother.

One of the things I loved about being a commercial traveler was the mobility of it all. :)

The same could be said of rural California.

Don't I know. I grew up in Bakersfield.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | April 3, 2009 8:42 PM

Interestingly, our coworker, Sandy Volpaka, was scheduled to be at a conference speaking on issues of LGBT and aging, including the effect on seniors and the disabled of the lack of equal access to civil marriage. Needless to say, her talk had an immediacy and vibrancy it would not have otherwise and that the entire conference was abuzz with the news. I'll report more on the day from the perspective of those in the middle of it all as I can.

A. J. Lopp | April 3, 2009 11:42 AM

I'm not celebrating yet.

I'm afraid this could be both Good News and Bad News. The Good News is obvious. The Bad News is that, in a Bible-belt state like Iowa, this ruling could be a perfect political recipe for Instant Constitutional Amendment.

Time will tell.

Chitown Kev | April 3, 2009 11:50 AM

A.J., but it's nowhere near as easy to amend the Iowa Constitution as it is in California. 2012 will be the earliest that this can hit the ballot in Iowa.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | April 3, 2009 8:57 PM

If you want to keep that from happening, help us raise funds to keep the legislature in Dem hands, with Mike Gronstal squarely in charge in the Senate. He made it very clear today that his opposition to any change in the law that would undermine the ruling is not limited to the remaining weeks of this legislative session. Seriously, every dollar counts and I can help you put them in the right hands to get the job done. Bil can usually find me, even if I'm being intentionally difficult to reach.

Marla, what's your opinion of the state orgs in Iowa? Is this a priority for Equality Iowa? Are there others that work on this sort of thing?

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | April 5, 2009 12:09 AM

This is a priority for the entire coalition of groups, including One Iowa, Equality Iowa and its PAC arm, the Rainbow PAC, Marriage Equality Iowa, the Interfaith Alliance, the Iowa ACLU, PFLAG chapters, I'm For Iowa, the Progressive Coalitions of Central Iowa and the Quad Cities, and so many others, with support of Lambda, Freedom To Marry, NGLTF, HRC, and more.

The rally in Des Moines last night was almost indescribably indicative of how this fight is bringing a wide spectrum of people together who are, through this landmark decision, embracing LGBT equality as the civil rights issue of the new century.

My wife, who chairs the Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa, at the end of her speech at last night's rally/party where over a thousand gathered in Des Moines -- a larger crowd than any of the issue rallies since we've lived in the state -- was approached by the leadership of movements on a myriad of issues who shared our joy, from juvenile justice to racial justice, poverty and homelessness to peace and labor/workers' rights and compensation, energy alternatives to sustainable living and local foods advocacy -- many of them expressing surprise at how deeply moved and changed they felt in the aftermath of the decision. The coalition and its underlying progressive base of support is much broader now than the list of usual suspects.

And that is due in part to incorporating things like a commitment with teeth to broaden inclusion of racial minorities and our allies legitimately -- by reaching out with a will to ensure that everyone has their fair share of the power and their say.

I don't want to go into strategic specifics on an open board but, yes, there is a concerted priority to maintain the Dem leaders in power as well as to build that power base wherever possible by replacing as many of the bad apples in the legislature with good ones as district electorate realities will allow.

It has been an original cornerstone of our collective work on the case and we are fully prepared to continue this aspect of it. It was, as much as the makeup of the court and the favorable structure of our state constitution and its strong equal protection provisions, a key component of Lambda's decision to file the case in Iowa in the first place.

We both need and enthusiastically welcome help from people across the nation who recognize what a crucial stone in the growing civil marriage equality structure the Iowa decision is and who would like to do whatever they can to help us keep it that way. The most important thing people can do, beyond helping to educate Iowans they personally know, is to help us keep our Dem majority legislature and the supportive leadership pledged to stand with us that comes with it.