Iowa Court Says Same-Sex Marriage Legal; OK in 3 States Now

Article excerpt

Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage Friday, shifting the cultural debate on such unions toward the nation's heartland and away from the more liberal coasts.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that a state law restricting marriage to a union of a man and a woman violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution, which requires that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike, according to the court's 69-page decision.

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, said Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady in the decision. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.

The ruling quickly set the stage for a legislative duel between both sides of same-sex marriage. Backers of gay marriage hailed the seven-member court's decision as a landmark civil rights victory, while proponents of traditional marriage vowed to bring the issue before the legislature and the voters.

Iowa becomes the third state where gay marriage is recognized. Homosexual couples may also marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In all three cases, the respective states' high courts were responsible for striking down laws barring same-sex marriage. The California Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of same-sex marriage, but was overruled by a statewide initiative affirming traditional marriage in November.

The Iowa decision takes effect April 24.

This is an amazing day - we're smiling ear to ear, said Jason Morgan, one of the case's plaintiffs.

Social conservatives, however, said the Iowa decision came as a punch in the gut.

This is the first time gay marriage has been imposed on the Midwest and not the liberal coasts, said Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, a pro-traditional marriage group based in Illinois. This is the first time we've seen this in the middle of the country. Having this ruling come down in the Midwest, and then having it unanimous, is shocking.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, blasted the court in a statement for what he described as pushing a social agenda through undemocratic means.

This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends, Mr. King said. 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.

He called on Iowans to pass a traditional marriage amendment to the Iowa Constitution. He also asked the legislature to pass legislation enacting a residency requirement on issuing marriage licenses so that the state doesn't become the gay marriage Mecca.

The opposition's best hope for overturning the court ruling lies in bringing a traditional-marriage constitutional amendment before the voters, the same strategy employed successfully last year in California. …