The Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling Friday finding that the state's same-sex-marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making Iowa the third state where marriage is legal.
In its decision, the court upheld a 2007 district court judge's ruling that the law violates the state constitution. It strikes the language from Iowa code limiting marriage to only between a man a woman.
"The court reaffirmed that a statute inconsistent with the Iowa constitution must be declared void even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion," said a summary of the ruling issued by the court.
The ruling set off celebration among the state's gay-marriage proponents.
"Iowa is about justice, and that's what happened here today," said Laura Fefchak, who was hosting a verdict party in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale with her partner of 13 years, Nancy Robinson.
Ms. Robinson added: "To tell the truth, I didn't think I'd see this day."
Des Moines attorney Dennis Johnson, who argued on behalf of the gay and lesbian couples, said "this is a great day for civil rights in Iowa."
I'll say! Good for them - now THAT'S some good ol' middle American values right there - making sure they stay faithful to the Constitution!
And for once, this will stand without argument:
Court rules dictate that the decision will take about 21 days to be considered final, and a request for a rehearing could be filed within that period. That means it will be at least several weeks before gay and lesbian couples can seek marriage licenses.
But Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said the county attorney's office won't ask for a rehearing, meaning the court's decision should take effect after that three-week period.
"Our Supreme Court has decided it, and they make the decision as to what the law is and we follow Supreme Court decisions," Mr. Sarcone said. "This is not a personal thing. We have an obligation to the law to defend the recorder, and that's what we do."
The case has been working its way through Iowa's court system since 2005 when Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of six gay and lesbian Iowa couples who were denied marriage licenses. Some of their children are also listed as plaintiffs.
The suit named then-Polk County recorder and registrar Timothy Brien.
The state Supreme Court's ruling upheld an August 2007 decision by Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson, who found that a state law allowing marriage only between a man and a woman violates the constitutional rights of equal protection.
The Polk County attorney's office, arguing on behalf of Mr. Brien, claimed that Judge Hanson's ruling violates the separation of powers and said the issue should be left to the Legislature.
Well, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that it is perfectly appropriate for a judge to rule on the side of equal rights, and staying true to its own Constitution...
There is much rejoicing throughout the land, at least from the LGBT community:
Lambda Legal scheduled a news conference for Friday to comment on the ruling. A request for comment from the Polk County attorney's office wasn't immediately returned.
Massachusetts and Connecticut permit same-sex marriage. California, which briefly allowed gay marriage before a voter initiative in November repealed it, allows domestic partnerships.
New Jersey and New Hampshire also offer civil unions, which provide many of the same rights that come with marriage. New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and legislators there and in New Jersey are weighing whether to offer marriage. A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Vermont has cleared the Legislature but may be vetoed by the governor.
The ruling in Iowa's same-sex-marriage case came more quickly than many observers had anticipated, with some speculating after oral arguments that it could take a year or more for a decision.
This is good news, good news indeed. It would be, um, NICE, if we had federal rights, with all the same benefits heterosexuals have. But for now, state by state is a beginning, and surely better than nothing. Go, Hawkeyes! I'll take it - I'll take any state that respects its Constitution, and equal rights for all.
We still have a long way to go, though. Suze Orman says it all in the video below, as well as acknowledging the financial impact of NOT having the same rights:
Amen, sister - preach it! It doesn't have to be Valentine's Day to want Equal Rights for all, in every state, with full federal benefits. It's the right thing to do, indeed. Good for Iowa for recognizing that, and the basis on which it made its decision. I hope and pray that other states will follow suit, and soon...