April 3, 2009, 8:58 am
Filed under: Ian | Tags:

Iowa Supreme Court strikes down state’s ban on same-sex marriage!

UPDATE: Holy shit, the decision was unanimous!

UPDATE II: This is big:

Because our civil marriage statute fails to provide equal protection of the law under the Iowa Constitution, we must decide how to best remedy the constitutional violation. The sole remedy requested by plaintiffs is admission into the institution of civil marriage. The County does not suggest an alternative remedy. The high courts of other jurisdictions have remedied constitutionally invalid bans on same-sex marriage in two ways. Some courts have ordered gay and lesbian people to be allowed to access the institution of civil marriage. See In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d at 453; Kerrigan, 957 A.2d at 480 (“definition of marriage necessarily must be expanded” to include same-sex couples); Opinions of the Justices to the Senate, 802 N.E.2d 565, 571 (Mass. 2004). Other courts have allowed their state legislatures to create parallel civil institutions for same-sex couples. See Lewis v. Harris, 908 A.2d 196, 221 (N.J. 2006); Baker v. State, 744 A.2d 864, 887 (Vt. 1999).

Iowa Code section 595.2 is unconstitutional because the County has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage. A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.  This record, our independent research, and the appropriate equal protection analysis do not suggest the existence of a justification for such a legislative classification that substantially furthers any governmental objective.  Consequently, the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.

UPDATE III: More good news, apparently this decision will stand for at least three years, meaning that Iowa voters will have three years to, like the people in Massachusetts, learn that marriage equality does not threaten anything except for Ken Starr’s delicate sensibilities:

Opponents of gay marriage would have to amend the state constitution in order to eliminate this newly given right. If the 2010 legislature endorses the idea, November 2012 would be the earliest that Iowans could vote on any possible constitutional amendment.

Under the Iowa Constitution, an Amendment may only be enacted through a fairly drawn out process:

Any amendment or amendments to this constitution may be proposed in either house of the general assembly; and if the same shall be agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment shall be entered on their journals, with the yeas and nays taken thereon, and referred to the legislature to be chosen at the next general election, and shall be published, as provided by law, for three months previous to the time of making such choice; and if, in the general assembly so next chosen as aforesaid, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be agreed to, by a majority of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the general assembly to submit such proposed amendment or amendments to the people, in such manner, and at such time as the general assembly shall provide; and if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments, by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the general assembly, voting thereon, such amendment or amendments shall become a part of the constitution of this state.


1 Comment so far
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That’s similar to the way Massachusetts does their amendments. If you remember, the MA legislature approved the amendment the first time around – but thoroughly destroyed it on its second pass the next year.

Comment by Jeff

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