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April 3, 2009


In a stunning unanimous decision, the Iowa State Supreme Court declared that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Iowa is considered to be the "heart" of the heartland and the decision to allow gay marriage in this state is truly significant. It mirrors Iowa's long history of commitment to the concepts of equal justice and equal treatment under the law. In 1839, years before slavery was outlawed across the country, the Iowa Supreme Court's first-ever decision was one that struck down all slavery laws within the state.

According to the Des Moines Register, Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who wrote the unanimous decision, said in his 69 page opinion that:

Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage.”

He also addressed the alternative suggestions of civil unions by saying:

“A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.”

The ruling recognized the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate,” and said judges must remain outside the fray.

“Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them.”

The justices also stressed that the ruling explicitly does not affect “the freedom of a religious organization to define marriage it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman.” Churches would still be free to decide that for themselves.

Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal excitedly exclaimed, “We won! It is unanimous! Today the dream becomes reality … and Iowa constitution’s promise of equality is fulfilled. Iowans have never waited for others to do the right thing. Iowa took its place in the vanguard of the civil rights struggle, and we couldn’t be more proud to be part of this.”

Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights and a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, said today’s decision could mean as much to gay couples outside Iowa.

“I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest state in the mainstream of American thought. Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

This is a great day for our community! Let's hope Socarides is right and we see this spread across our country like a rising sun.