Saturday, April 4, 2009

Field of Dreams

Congratulations Iowa!

Yesterday, the Iowa Supreme Court found a 1998 state law defining marriage as only between a man and woman to be unconstitutional!

“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...
We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law...
Civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals...”

- Iowa Justice Mark S. Cady

Iowa now joins Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing same-sex couples the right to marry in civil ceremonies. Same-sex marriage had been legal in California until Proposition 8 amended the state constitution to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman, back on November 4, 2008. (Proposition 8 is now before the California Supreme Court.) Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey all allow Civil Unions. (The Vermont Legislature recently passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but it may be vetoed by Republican Governor James Douglas. However, the Legislature may have the votes to override that veto.) The District of Columbia, Oregon and Washington have Domestic Partnership laws which approach the level of Civil Unions. Maine and Maryland have lesser forms of Domestic Partnership laws.

The significance and importance of this Iowa ruling should not be underestimated. Iowa is located in the center of the lower 48 states, in “America’s Heartland”, not on either of the coasts. Both coasts are perceived to be more liberal than the so called “heartland”. So the impact of the Iowa ruling extends beyond the legal to the geographical and the psychological. It’s not just good news for same-sex Iowan couples who wish to marry, it’s good news for everyone who believes in equal rights.

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