Iowa Supreme Court's Marriage Ruling Respects Religious Liberty, Says AU

Church & State, May 2009 | Go to article overview
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Iowa Supreme Court's Marriage Ruling Respects Religious Liberty, Says AU


An Iowa Supreme Court decision striking down a state ban on same-sex marriage is a welcome reaffirmation of religious liberty, says Americans United.

In their unanimous ruling April 3, the justices made it clear that religious denominations have a constitutional right to set their own rules about marriage but that civil law should reflect equal protection for all citizens and not be anchored in religious dogma.

"The court has reaffirmed religious liberty," said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, in a press statement. "The justices reminded us that religious groups are free to marry whomever they choose, but civil law cannot be based on any group's theology.

"The court has recognized that civil marriage is the province of government and religious marriage is the province of the faith community," Lynn said. "That's what our constitutional principles mandate, and that's the way it should be. Clergy are free to perform or decline to perform marriage ceremonies, while the government treats everyone equally when it comes to civil marriage."

Although it tended to get overlooked in the reporting about the decision, a large portion of the ruling reflected Americans United's view that civil law must not be based only on marriage doctrines held by some theological traditions.

"[C]ivil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals," observed the court in its Varnum u. Brien ruling. "This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all. We are not permitted to do less and would damage our constitution immeasurably by trying to do more.

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Iowa Supreme Court's Marriage Ruling Respects Religious Liberty, Says AU
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