The New York Times
nytimes.doc from the Web, April 5, 2009
Like the state’s earlier landmark
civil rights cases — striking down slavery in 1839, for example, and segregation
in 1868 and 1873 — the ruling on gay marriage by Iowa’s Supreme Court is a
refreshing message of fairness and common sense from the nation’s heartland.
A unanimous decision by the seven-member court on Friday approved marriage for
couples of the same sex and brought the nation a step closer toward realizing
its promise of equality and justice.
Iowa is only the third state, following Massachusetts and Connecticut, to
legalize gay marriage. California allowed such marriages for five months
until November’s election, when residents rejected the idea in a voter
initiative. A ruling on the validity of that initiative is expected soon
from California’s Supreme Court.
In finding no “persuasive justification” for the different treatment of
committed gay and lesbian couples, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed a lower court
holding of two years ago. That ruling overturned, on equal protection
grounds, a 1998 state law confining civil marriage to a union between a man and
a woman. Same-sex marriages could begin in Iowa before the month is out.
The new decision says marriage is a civil contract and should not be defined by
religious doctrine or views. “We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay
and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially
further an important governmental objective,” wrote Justice Mark Cady, a
Republican appointee. “The legislature has excluded a historically
disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without
a constitutionally sufficient justification.”
The immediate impact of Iowa’s ruling was to make the failure to respect gay
people’s freedom to marry, by courts and legislatures in states like New York,
seem all the more shameful.
“When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s
events will be why it took us so long,” said a statement by Iowa’s State Senate
majority leader, Michael Gronstal, and House speaker, Pat Murphy, both