April 03, 2009

More on the Iowa Ruling

As I like to do after major events in GLBT equality, here is a gathering of news releases and opinions about the exciting news that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejected a state law that banned same-sex marriage.

"This is a great day for civil rights in Iowa," said former Iowa Solicitor-General Dennis Johnson, a co-counsel with Lambda Legal. "Go get married. Live happily ever."
The court's decision becomes effective in 21 days, and county recorders then will be required to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Lambda senior staff attorney Camilla Taylor said at the news conference.
"You do not have to be an Iowan to seek a license here," she said, and Iowa should recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Iowa will become the third state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Statement from Carolyn Jenison, Executive Director of One Iowa:
I want to begin by saying how great it is to be an Iowan! Today, the Heartland proves again to be fitting of its name. The Iowa Supreme Court, in clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry, recognized that love and commitment are at the heart of what makes our communities strong. As Iowans, we pride ourselves on our strong sense of community and fairness. It’s only fair that two caring, committed people are able to take full responsibility for one another.

Des Moines Register:
Democrats are in charge of both chambers and the governor's office. Only a few weeks remain in the 2009 session, and that means "you have to suspend the joint rules, and it's exceedingly unlikely that we will pursue legislation this session on that subject," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.
A Republican leader said lawmakers should stay focused on the budget and job creation.
"Those are our primary jobs," said House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha.
Several Republicans said they'd like to keep their party's attention on money and employment and not wade too deeply into issues such as gay rights or abortion.

Lambda Legal:
Writing for the entire court, Justice Cody 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. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."
Immediately following the decision, Lambda Legal, the statewide political group One Iowa and the plaintiffs held a press conference outside the courtroom. "The Court's decision is exhaustive, well-thought out and supported by the Iowa Constitution," says Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton. "The ruling is legally compelling and consistent with the most basic of Iowa values — fairness, strong communities and protection for families."

The Advocate:
In the weeks ahead, attention will turn to the state legislature, where marriage-equality opponents and the minority Republican leadership are already calling for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Such an amendment would require approval in consecutive legislative sessions and in a public vote, which means marriage-equality opponents will have to wait until 2012.
Despite the lag in time, marriage-equality leaders say it is important to act now to strengthen support for the court decision among legislators and the public.
“In Iowa, the immediate work is supporting the elected officials in their effort to stand by this decision,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “They’re going to come under tremendous pressure to overturn it.”
Attitudes toward marriage equality in Iowa also matter.
According to the Des Moines Register, a poll in February 2008 showed that 62% of Iowans said they believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman. State residents were split on whether the constitution should be changed to ban same-sex marriage, however.

It is a win because only a handful of states recognize gay relationships at all. But it is even more of a win because it’s Iowa.
The fight for gay marriage and equal rights is, in part, a fight for judicial intervention and legislative action that enforces diversity and inclusion. But it is also a fight for hearts and minds.
Just because a gay couple can get divorced in New York and might, in the near future, be able to be married in D.C., doesn’t mean that I can road trip with my girlfriend from coast to coast without being harassed.
We have to focus on the entire country and most of all, we have to focus on states like Iowa.
The decision this morning will not magically transform Iowa into a tolerant state (they did vote for Bush in 2004 after all). But it will provide the opportunity for LGBT Iowans to be more visible, more recognized.
What we know about visibility is, after a while, people get used to have those that are different from them around. The more the courts can facilitate this diverse cohabitation the better. But it needs to happen in local communities, rural communities, and mid western states.
You cannot win equality by focusing on California, New York and D.C. Equality comes from meeting intolerance where it lives. Which is what Lambda Legal did in Iowa. And it is why this court win is bigger than just another state on the gay marriage band wagon.

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