Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iowa Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriages

An Iowa trial court ruled today that same-sex couples in that state were deprived of their right to due process and equal protection under the Iowa Constitution when the state refused to issue them marriage licenses. An Iowa state law specifically provided that "only a marriage between a female and a male is valid." The trial court found that the state law excluding same-sex couples from marriage stigmatized their relationships and families and made them more vulnerable in comparison to heterosexual couples. "Through the marriage exclusion the State devalues and delegitimizes at the very core of the adult Plaintiff's sexual orientation and expresses, compounds, and perpetuates the stigma historically attached to homosexuality, for them and all gay persons," the trial court judge ruled. "Plaintiffs are continually reminded of their own and their family's second-class status in daily interactions in their neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and other arenas in which their relationships and families are poorly or unequally treated, or are not recognized at all," the court said.

Under Iowa's Constitution, the trial court determined that marriage is a fundamental right, which requires a strict scrutiny analysis, unlike the less rigorous rational basis analysis applied under Indiana's Constitution. Strict scrutiny shifts the burden of proving the constitutionality of the law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples to the state. The trial court judge noted that Iowa courts have been at the forefront in preserving civil rights of their citizens in areas such as race, gender and sexual orientation. The court analogized its ruling extending the fundamental right of marriage to same-sex couples to similar court decisions striking down laws prohibiting interracial marriages, noting there had not been a historical tradition of interracial marriages either before miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional. Arguments that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples was necessary to promote procreation, stability in opposite-sex marriages and preserving traditional marriage were rejected by the court as a compelling state interest in the state's law. Accordingly, the state law failed on due process grounds.

Similarly, the court found the state's marriage law violated the equal protection rights of Iowa's same-sex couples. The language of Iowa's equal protection clause is nearly identical to Indiana's equal protection clause. It reads, "All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens." Again, unlike Indiana, Iowa applies a more stringent standard in its equal protection cases. Specifically, it applies an intermediate scrutiny analysis, which too shifts the burden to the party seeking to uphold the constitutionality of the statute. The court found that the statute's classification of same-sex couples was not substantially related to an important state interest. Even if it applied a rational basis analysis, the court held that the statute would still fail to pass muster under Iowa's equal protection clause because it is not rationally related to a legitimate government interest.

Invariably, folks like Eric Miller and Micah Clark will jump on the Iowa decision as further evidence a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is needed in Indiana. If you take a look at the Morrison v. Sadler decision, a Court of Appeals opinion upholding Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, you will understand why these folks would be wrong to conclude this. Marriage is not a fundamental right according to the Morrison court. As noted above, Indiana neither applies the strict scrutiny analysis nor the intermediate scrutiny analysis as Iowa courts do when reviewing the constitutionality of a state statute on state due process or equal protection grounds. Instead, Indiana applies a rational basis analysis, which imposes a very heavy burden on a party to prove a state law is unconstitutional under either due process or equal protection grounds. If you look at the case law in this area, you will find only a handful of cases which have ever ruled in favor of a party seeking to overturn a state statute, which is quite striking considering the number of discriminatory laws our state legislature has enacted during its checkered history.


Anonymous said...

Here's my question for you, Gary.

Do you believe that the Iowa court decision was the correct one?

In general, are you in favor of same-sex marriages enabled through judical rulings rather than a legislative act?

Anonymous said...

I almost hate to trumpet this...the NeoCons will come out of the woodwork.

But it is great news.

Anonymous said... already happened. As I was typing, too...

Look, 8:49 No. 1: the Court, apparently, ruled properly that the Equal Protection Clause of Iowa's Constitution, which I'm assuming is much like ours, needed to extend to gay couples, too.

Get over it.

Not all victories and proper progress in civil rights come via legislatures.

And if we're waiting on America's worst state legislature, well, last session, they gave us:

1. "In God We Trust" license plates, which, if no fee is charged like other vanity plates, clearly establishes Christianity as an official state religion.

2. $250 per property owner as property tax relief. With no freaking idea where it was coming from, or how to send it out. Pander left, pander right...

3. A budget that's built on a hope and a prayer.

So yeah, if courts are the only way to redress grievances, it's fair.

Anonymous said...

Another news flash--only slightly off subject, but bear with me:

I'm eating lunch the other day in a well-known local restaurant. Guess who sits at the table next to us? Eric Miller.

Now, I don't eavesdrop all the time, but he was loud. He bragged how they'd beat Rep. Austin and anyone who got in the way of them on gay marriage.

And then, what did this dennison of the far right do?

I swear, he cleaned his ears with a car key. I almost threw up at the table, as did my tablemates.

What a classy guy.

Sorry for the diversion. Had to relate this.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The decision was correctly decided under the state constitutional analysis set down by the Iowa Supreme Court. The decision gives true meaning to the literal intent of the equal protection and due process clauses. People like to complain about judicial activism when they really don't like the broad meaning of the words chosen by the founders who wrote these provisions into our state constitutions. You can just as easily make the argument that judges are being activist by reading out the literal meaning of these words in the constitution to fit a social agenda of their own.

Anonymous said...

"same-sex" amrriage...
after being married for almost 12 years, I'm still getting the "same sex", I'd like something different.

All joking aside. As a straight male, I don't see what the problem is. If gays want to marry, go for it. Who cares?
If it's an issue of who gets what in the event of a deat, make a will!
Unless I'm wrong, and AI should know this one, I can will anything I want to whomever I choose, leaving my heirs with very little..
our stupid azzed government needs to stick to running the gubment, not peoples lives.
Let the Supreme Judge decide someones eternal ever-after on their judgement day!

Anonymous said...

Iowa? Really?

Go Iowa.

Iowa. Not Massachusettes, not Vermont or New Jersey.


Go figure.

Cool. They gots some guts on that court.

Anonymous said...

To the other extreme...

Why is the state approving marriage for anyone?

If two people enter into a verbal or written contract to have and to hold (or however they choose to phrase it), they have that right. If they wish to enter into that contract with witnesses as a ceremony, who can stop them. If they wish to believe that contract contstitutes "marriage" that's their business. All I ask is that the government doesn't require me to honor any such contract to which I am not party.

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Anonymous said...

Not gay here, but I cannot help but wonder what are the taxes like in Iowa?

Iowa gets it!

Anonymous said...

I think that this is going to be a significant setback for gay rights - or same sex marriage, anyway - since: (1) I doubt the ruling will stand (it's a trial court ruling, not even an appellate court ruling); and (2) I think this will energize proponents of gay marriage banning amendments precisely at a time when they seem to be losing appeal.

It gives SJR 7 proponents a good response to the opponents' argument that we don't need the statute because same sex marriage is already illegal...they'll just point to Iowa.