Saturday, April 4, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Equal Protection In Gay Marriage Ruling

The photo to the left shows Dawn and Jen BarbouRoske with their two daughters. If any photo ever reflected family values and devoted parenting, this one does. Dawn and Jen were plaintiffs in a challenge to Iowa's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The Iowa Supreme Court did its job in declaring discrimination against same-sex couples like Dawn and Jen unconstitutional. It confirmed the principle of equal protection under the law, as guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution:

Same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Iowa by month’s end, after a ruling on Friday by the Iowa Supreme Court that found unconstitutional a state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

...“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,” Justice Mark S. Cady wrote for the seven-member court, adding later, “We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law.”

...“If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded,” the Supreme Court said in agreeing that the 1998 law was unconstitutional.

Republican Representative Steve King of Western Iowa presented the characteristic conservative response:

"This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends. Iowa law says that marriage is between one man and one woman. If judges believe the Iowa legislature should grant same sex marriage, they should resign from their positions and run for office, not legislate from the bench."

King doesn't understand that it is the state law he refers to that is unconstitutional, and that the judges aren't legislating but upholding equal protection. Indeed, King's logic could have been used to argue against the finding in the 1967 case Loving v. Virginia, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anti-miscegenation laws, which prevented interracial marriage, were unconstitutional. There probably were those who contended that Virginia law said that marriage is between a white man and a white woman–and that the judges were "legislating from the bench."

It's significant that this new ruling came from America's heartland. Now New York and California, supposedly states that set the national cultural pace, will have to catch up to Iowa's progressive and just stance on the equal marriage rights of gay and lesbian citizens.

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