On Friday, April 4th the Iowa Supreme Court held unconstitutional a state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman. As a result, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Iowa by the end of the month.
The court’s decision was unanimous. Iowa is the first state in America’s heartland to allow same-sex marriage. Until Friday’s decision, only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow same-sex marriages at this time. California permitted them for about six months, but voters approved a ban in November 2008.
Justice Mark S. Cady wrote the 69-page decision for the seven-member court. The decision was based upon a challenge that Iowa’s statute banning same-sex marriage denied gays and lesbians equal protection. Justice Cady wrote:
“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”
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“We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law.”
Some opponents of same-sex marriage in Iowa promised to fight against the court’s decision. Under Iowa law, any further challenge may only be done by a constitutional amendment. Such a process would take at least two years.
There was great joy among same-sex couples who had eagerly awaited this decision. Interestingly, after the ruling becomes final in three weeks, marriage can take place, even when applicants have not proof of Iowa residency. This will allow same-sex couples from other states to be married in Iowa.
The appellees were represented by Lambda Delta Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. Interest groups for both sides of the issue filed amicus briefs. It took 6 pages to list all of them. They included many organizations championing the rights of gays and lesbians such as PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, who were joined by groups advocating for specific racial groups, and also included the Iowa Constitutional Law Scholars, various religious groups and the American Psychological Association.
Spokespersons for some of those organizations made statements to the New York Times about the decision and its implications.
The decision may be read here in a pdf file.
The Iowa Supreme Court’s press release is found here.
You may read the New York Times article Iowa Voids Gay Marriage Ban here.