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Monday, April 6, 2009

The Iowa Decision, Continued

Geez, they grow up so darn fast. One minute they’re this big, the next, well, they’re just all grown up.

The photo above is of my nieces Carrie and Kate. Kate is now in law school. I will resist the nearly irresistible urge as her Auntie to brag on her in excruciating detail. But I will say the kid the young lady is smart as a whip. After she read my “Field of Dreams” post, she sent me an e-mail. I was sufficiently wowed that I am printing it here in its entirety. (I have tried to apply all the intended quotations and italics.)


Kate begins:
 
I have read the whole decision and I just love how well-written, easy-to follow it is.
 
One great part of the decision is the discussion on separation of powers, and the different roles of the different branches of government. Opponents of gay marriage often cite “activist judges” or “legislating from the bench” to rally people against a ruling like this. In my opinion, it helps those opponents lend credence to the notion that a court has overstepped its authority. But this ruling spells out the exact purpose of the court’s review.

A couple of excerpts (I added emphasis):

 “Among other basic principles essential to our form of government, the constitution defines certain individual rights upon which the government may not infringe. All these rights and principles are declared and undeniably accepted as the supreme law of this state, against which no contrary law can stand… This case, as with most other civil rights actions before it, implicates these broad constitutional principles of governing. The legislature, in carrying out its constitutional role to make public policy decisions, enacted a law that effectively excludes gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage. The executive branch of government, in carrying out its role to execute the law, enforced this statute through a county official who refused to issue marriage licenses to six same-sex couples. These Iowans, believing that the law is inconsistent with certain constitutional mandates, exercised their constitutional right to petition the courts for redress of their grievance. This court, consistent with its role to interpret the law and resolve disputes, now has the responsibility to determine if the law enacted by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch violates the Iowa Constitution. A statute inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution must be declared void, even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion. Iowa Const. art. XII, § 1 (providing any law inconsistent with the constitution is void).
 
Additionally, they used a heightened review standard for this case. Generally, when a law is challenged before the court as “unconstitutional,” the court gives deference to the legislature. This is called rational basis review: the law must be rationally related to furthering a governmental interest. Usually laws tend to hold up under this, as most laws can demonstrate that governmental interest.

 But when it comes to equal protection, courts up the ante. You give less deference to the legislature when classes of people come into play (think laws that impact race, like interracial marriage laws back in the day). “Thus, courts apply a heightened level of scrutiny under equal protection analysis when reasons exist to suspect ‘prejudice against discrete and insular minorities . . . which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities.’”
 
Here, the court applied an “intermediate scrutiny” test, which is a step above rational review. With this standard, the challenged law must be substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental objective.
 
As the court noted, “to survive intermediate scrutiny, the law must not only further an important governmental interest and be substantially related to that interest, but the justification for the classification must be genuine and must not depend on broad generalizations…. Classifications based on factors like race, alienage, national origin, sex, or illegitimacy are ‘so seldom relevant to achievement of any legitimate state interest that laws grounded in such considerations are deemed to reflect prejudice and antipathy.’ Rather than bearing some relationship to the burdened class’s ability to contribute to society, such classifications often reflect irrelevant stereotypes. ‘For these reasons and because such discrimination is unlikely to be soon rectified by legislative means,’ laws based on these types of classifications must withstand more intense judicial scrutiny than other types of classifications.”
 
The state, in its reasoning for the ban, gave a number of examples as to why the government has an interest in leaving marriage between one man and one woman. Some of those reasons, very similar to those presented in the Massachusetts case six years ago, included: best interests of children to be in dual-sex marriage homes, promotion of procreation, state resources etc. The court carefully dissects and destroys each of these reasons in their heightened analysis. So ultimately the court denied this law because it failed the harder-to-meet test.
 
I have attached the ruling in its entirety (here’s an on-line link) if you have the time to read it. Its almost 70 pages, but a great way to learn more about how these types of cases are decided.
Just a brilliant opinion.
- Kate


Lee/Auntie Lee again:
Ooops! I hope my buttons bursting didn’t hit anyone in the eye! ;o)

Thanks Kate!

7 comments:

dancingmorganmouse said...

*ping of button* ouch!

Anonymous said...

I don't know where to begin except to say I couldn't be prouder of the two of them if I tried. My buttons have been popping for years!

C&K's Mom

PS The apples didn't fall too far from the tree, I have to take some credit.

:o) Gail

Kate said...

Lol, let me reiterate that that I am still only a student. Any real lawyers out there can feel free to poke as many holes as possible in that discussion....it was just IMO : ) We'll see if I am right when I get my grades for Constitutional Law this semester!

Anonymous said...

that's why kate is in law school and i am not..cute pic:) Carrie

purpleronnie3 said...

As much as I loved the post, I loved Kate's humble comment more, and Gail's even more hehehe
Well done ;0)

Pink Granite said...

Hi All -
Alas, I can't take any credit for the nieces and nephews I've been blessed with, but I can be awfully darn proud of all of their accomplishments!!!

BTW, Carrie and Kate are still just as cute as they are in that picture - just all grown up now! As their great grandmother Gagee used to say: "They're just cunnin'!"
;o)
- Lee

P.S. Kate I wouldn't bet against you for your Constitutional Law grades!

barbie2be said...

your kate is smart as a whip!