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  • « UAFA: new tactic | Main | The politics of marriage »

    April 03, 2009

    Marriage in Iowa - UNANIMOUS

    Posted by: Andoni

    The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that gay couples have the same right to marry in Iowa as straight couples.

    Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy, they issued the following remarkable joint statement following the decision:

    "Thanks to today's decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights.

    "The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.

    "When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long.  It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.

    "Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

    "Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights. In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

    "In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated "separate but equal" schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

    "In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

    "In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

    "In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.

    "Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws."

    Iowa is indeed a remarkable state. What a great decision and reaction from their political leaders!

    I will update this post as I can. I'm beginning 3 months of intensive today, so my posts will be infrequent.

    UPDATE: If you wish to read a summary of the decision from the Iowa Supreme Court, you can do it here, with the full decision here.

    I am hoping that the justices from the California Supreme take note and read this decision. It just might help them develop the backbone to void Prop 8. They got it right in May in their landmark decision. To uphold Prop 8 at this point will not look good for them in history......and they should realize that.




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    1. Strict Scrutiny on Apr 3, 2009 12:22:57 PM:

      This was truly a remarkable decision. What great news! Hurray! Let's just hope the jackholes who led the Prop 8 campaign don't set their sights on Iowa.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Apr 4, 2009 9:36:16 AM:

      I am hoping that the justices from the California Supreme take note and read this decision. It just might help them develop the backbone to void Prop 8. They got it right in May in their landmark decision. To uphold Prop 8 at this point will not look good for them in history......and they should realize that.

      There you go again with this stuff about developing the "backbone" to void Prop 8. Interpreting the law is about interpreting and applying laws, cases, and statutes. It's not about putting on a black robe and playing "King for a Day -- and I get to make the rules I want!"

      My opinion, based on my own legal trainng and education, is that Prop 8 wins the day. Period. As a gay man, I hate Prop 8 and the assholes who foisted it on us. But that's how it is. Deal with it. Judges don't get to just flout and reject laws they don't like.

    1. Brian on Apr 5, 2009 12:12:24 PM:

      You missed the best quote from the ruling:

      “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.”

    1. mademark on Apr 6, 2009 4:05:35 PM:

      I'd have to agree with Strict Scrutiny. The CA court has already telegraphed its intention loudly: they will find that Prop 8 is an amendment, not a revision. Even if they would like to void it, that's not their job, should they conclude it's a valid amendment under the sorry California system. I loathe Prop 8, but that's their system. It also, to my mind, means the mighty California is a leader no more. I hope, more than an overturn of Prop 8, that the east coast legislatures will now get the backbone to pass marriage bills in New York (stalled in the Senate) and New Jersey. It's time to write off California, at least for the decade it will take for them to overturn Prop 8 at the ballot box.

    1. dkeeler on Apr 7, 2009 5:57:23 PM:

      Chris has been conspicuously absent from his own blog for quite awhile now. I wonder if it would be appropriate to note for all, that tomorrow, 4/8/09, is his 44th birthday!!

    1. SeaMex on Apr 7, 2009 7:14:30 PM:

      Happy Birthday Chris!!!

    1. Chuck on Apr 7, 2009 10:14:34 PM:

      Many happy returns of the day, Chris.

    1. Seadog on Apr 9, 2009 5:50:10 AM:

      Strict and Made, not being an attorney I need you to walk me again through how Prop 8 is not a revision to the equal protection provision of the California constitution, such provision being a core right. The current Court itself set the precedent that includes same sex marriage under the protection. At a bare minimum, would it nor require the amendment (or at least its ballot description) to say something like: "The equal protection provisions of the Constitution are modified as follows:..."?

    1. Seadog on Apr 9, 2009 7:56:07 AM:

      On point with my above question, the following paragraph from the California decision (Page 6) seems relevant:

      "...we conclude that, under this state’s Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature *or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process* [emphasis added]."

      IOW, the Court needs to REVERSE its own precedent (and ignore Iowa's), not just accede to Prop 8.

      Explain how it is compelled to do so, again? It looks to me like the Court a priori overturned Prop 8! They cannot possibly be so stupid as to not have foreseen the present circumstance. I guess I can see that one rogue, cowardly Justice might reverse themselves--but talk about judicial activism(!!)--and that cannot possibly be seen as a foregone outcome. Reverse your 9-month old ruling because of a popular vote? Talk about tyranny of the majority! Precluding that is the *entire* fundamental purpose of a court system. You really think that the California Supremes will so obliterate themselves (OK, agreed, again, it is about just any one of the majority in this case)?

    1. Andoni on Apr 9, 2009 1:54:17 PM:

      According to Evan Wolfson, the forefather of same sex marriage in the US, here are some legal reasons for the court to strike down Prop 8:


    1. Strict Scrutiny on Apr 9, 2009 5:13:15 PM:

      The arguments advanced or described by Evan Wolfson are specious -- he's grasping at straws in a vain attempt to attack a perfectly legal constitutional amendment.

      We lost, we need to move on. Prop 8 was entirely legal. Discriminatory, hateful, bigoted, yes. But 100% legal. Deal with it. We have to do another initiative to repeal it.

      Instead of lambasting the court that gave us the right to marry in the first place, direct your anger where it belongs -- at the grand coalition of bigots who passed this vile amendment.

    1. Double T on Apr 10, 2009 2:14:33 AM:

      God Bless the Hawkeye State.

      Perhaps change will come, not from the busy city streets, but from quiet fields. Places you least expect change.

    1. Seadog on Apr 10, 2009 6:51:02 AM:


      Your non-specific and emotional response leaves me breathless. What is it with the quality of legal education in America that leads its produced professionals incapable of crafting or dealing with a structured argument? That you and Obama are licensed to practice (in his case, let alone teach) with such cavalier attitudes is appalling.

      Let me get this, er, straight. You agree with Starr that in California a majority vote can strip any group of any right? But that we are 'fortunate' that the SCOTUS might possibly overturn such legislation under identically worded provisions of the US Constitution?

      The whole world is insane. And pathetic.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Apr 10, 2009 10:04:14 AM:


      My response was non-specific because I cannot give adequate treatment to the legal issues and concepts involved in a short, 500 word blog post. I have no intention of posting a legal dissertation on this site for you to learn about the relevant law.

      To the extent my response was emotional, it is because a bunch of non-lawyers like you and Andoni keep bitching about the Supreme Court as if you know anything about constitutional analysis or inquiry. You know nothing about it. All you know is the political result you want and you criticize the Court for not giving it to you. The justices of our CA Supreme Court are among the best and brightest legal scholars in the country and I am quite certain their decision will be legally correct.

      And third, the quality of legal education in this state is just fine. The only thing that's appalling here is your profound ignorance.

    1. Andoni on Apr 10, 2009 12:45:47 PM:

      Let me defend Strict Scrutiny (and btw, myself).

      The Supreme Court (US or state) can do anything it wants to do. Just look at Bush v. Gore. There is always something in the constitution that they can hang their hats on to justify what they decide. If they can find one iota to justify their position, then it's all a matter of weighting the various supporting pieces to justify what they want.

      Yes, there are precedents in CA, but none of them really quite hit the nail on the head for Prop 8. If it were simply abiding by the law and precedents, I good geek could come up with a computer program to decide things and do away with humans all together.

      Adding humans and all that that implies (compassion, foresight, teaching moments, leading the public into something new and unpopular territory, historical) is what makes a Supreme Court more than a computer program.

      If I were Chief Justice George (and my last name is George), I'm sure I could lead the court to a decision I like and support it so that both legal scholars and historians say I did a legally correct thing as well as a historically correct thing.

      All it takes is the will to lead and not care about being re-elected.

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