Breaking: Iowa’s highest court allows gay marriage

Two quick observations: It’s unanimous and it’s from the heartland.

UPDATE: Press release from heads of the Iowa state legislature below.

The AP reports:

The Iowa Supreme Court says the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples. In a unanimous ruling issued Friday, the court upheld a 2007 Polk County District Court judge’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional. The case stems from a 2005 lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization.

The case, Varnum v. Brien, is centered on whether the state’s 10-year-old law defining a “valid” marriage as only “between a male and female” violates the Iowa Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment and due process. Six same-sex couples tried to apply for marriage licenses in Polk County and were denied. They argued that Iowa’s marriage law goes against the state’s Constitution and sued Polk County Recorder and Registrar Timothy Brien in 2005. Polk County Judge Robert Hanson ruled last year that the law was unconstitutional and then ordered the license be issued. The next day, the judge suspended his ruling. One gay couple did get married. The case was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case in December. The justices did not indicate how long it would take to make their written ruling, though the court generally takes at least several months to issue rulings.

Here is a link to the ruling itself.

The Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity, comments at USAToday.

Integrity commends ruling here.


Press release from heads of the Iowa state legislature

For Immediate Release: April 3, 2008

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal

House Speaker Pat Murphy

Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing civil rights

This is a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today’s Supreme Court decision:

“Thanks to today’s decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens’ equal rights.

“The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.

“When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.

“Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

“Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

“In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

“In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

“In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

“In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

“In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.

“Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.”

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