Sunday, April 5, 2009

Iowa decision deliciously unsurprising

Alright, I admit that I’ve been a bit slow to post about the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision, which struck down that state’s legislative ban against same-sex marriage. Yes, it’s huge news. And every blogger in the world had something up about the decision immediately. Except me.

Not that I wasn’t excited. I am very excited about the ruling. And I am also very excited about the fact that same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Iowa for probably two years before any effort can successfully get a constitutional amendment on the state ballot to rescind the decision. By that time, what would be the point of such a constitutional amendment? It certainly would not be an altruistic desire to protect marriage. By that time, such a move would be rightfully perceived as the bigoted move it was from the start.

What I found intriguing about the unanimous ruling was how the court pointedly opined that it could see no benefit to the state in maintaining a ban against same-sex marriage, marking the legislation for what it was: a cowardly attempt to keep down “a historically disfavored class.”

These justices aren’t afraid of upholding the law. I saw that in 1998 when the court issued a monumental decision in the case of Bormann v. Kossuth County, a decision that it upheld in 2004 in Gacke v. Pork Xtra. Now you may be wondering, “what do two agricultural cases have to do with gay marriage?”

The short answer is nothing. However, what is relevant is the fact that the Iowa Supreme Court has shown a decisive tendency to pay attention to what the law says, rather than to which party has the biggest bank roll. And in doing so, it has historically written very clear opinions so that its decisions will not likely be misinterpreted in the future. This is very good news in terms of the court’s decision Friday in Varnum, et al. v. Polk County.

In the Des Moines Register article I linked above, it was stated that Iowa was chosen for the same-sex marriage case because of “fair-mindedness of its residents and the courts.”

The fact that it could be as long as two years before anything can go before voters to overturn the ruling might have had something to do with the selection as well.

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