Sunday, September 02, 2007


The marriage window opened in Polk County, Iowa, for a few hours Friday, until around 11:30, when District Court Judge Robert Hanson stayed his order legalizing same-sex marriage pending an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. But the win is sweet nonetheless. Hanson's opinion laid out one of the strongest arguments in support of marriage equality ever articulated by an American court.

Hanson's 63-page opinion Thursday held that the denial of marriage violates the due process and equal protection rights of same-sex couples under the state constitution. Hanson initially struck the state ban on gay nuptials, and ordered the county clerks to issue marriage licenses at once. Some 20 couples reportedly applied Friday morning before Hanson put on the brakes.

Hanson wrote that marriage was a fundamental right under the state constitution's due process clause, and as such, its denial triggered the highest level of court scrutiny. He also ruled that Iowa's statutory ban on same-sex marriage violated the state's equal protection clause by discriminating on the basis of sex, a determination that also required heightened scrutiny.

Finally, Hanson ruled that the state's asserted justifications for maintaining a marriage ban did not even pass the lowest standards of court review. Assuming that a state interest in promoting "responsible procreation" was a legitimate purpose, Hanson wrote, the remedy of blocking all gay couples from matrimony bore no rational relationship to the state's alleged goals. The fact that heterosexual felons, older couples, and couples with no interest in having children were free to marry also undercut the state's argument.

Iowa may be a red state, but as Hanson pointed out, it has a history of far-sighted jurisprudence. The state was the second, after California, to toss out laws against interracial marriage, years before the U.S. Supreme Court took action in Loving v Virginia.

This year, the Iowa state legislature passed a gay rights bill into law, banning sexual orientation and gender identity bias in employment, housing and public accommodations. The law was signed by youthful Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat.

On Friday, Culver called on the legislature to stay out of the marriage wars until the case has been heard by the state supreme court. Iowa is one of 23 states that has not amended its constitution to ban same-sex marriage, although a Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1998.

1 comment:

CrackerLilo said...

Don't they get it now, how bad people want it?