Monday, April 6, 2009

iowa supreme court shows U.S. that separation of church and state is not dead

On Friday, the Iowa State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state's DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional. After the seriously big downer that was Prop 8, this was the most awesome news in...well...since the California State Supreme Court upheld a law allowing same-sex marriage.

I actually read the decision Saturday morning. It's 69 pages. Hey, Nicky woke me up at 7 a.m. and Jesse doesn't usually wake up until 11 so I had plenty of time to kill. Allow me to summarize the key awesome points for you...

  • Regarding the plaintiffs: Like all Iowans, they prize their liberties and live within the borders of this state with the expectation that their rights will be maintained and protected—a belief embraced by our state motto (which is "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain”).
  • The defense: The County offered five primary interests of society in support of the legislature’s exclusive definition of marriage. The first three interests are broadly related to the advancement of child rearing. Specifically, the objectives centered on promoting procreation, promoting child rearing by a mother and a father within a marriage, and promoting stability in an opposite-sex relationship to raise and nurture children. The fourth interest raised by the County addressed the conservation of state resources, while the final reason concerned the governmental interest in promoting the concept and integrity of the traditional notion of marriage.
The Court's rationale:
  • Among other basic principles essential to our form of government, the constitution defines certain individual rights upon which the government may not infringe. Equal protection of the law is one of the guaranteed rights. All these rights and principles are declared and undeniably accepted as the supreme law of this state, against which no contrary law can stand.
  • Our responsibility, however, is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time. The framers of the Iowa Constitution knew, as did the drafters of the United States Constitution, that “times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress,” and as our constitution “endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom” and equality.
  • No two people or groups of people are the same in every way, and nearly every equal protection claim could be run aground onto the shoals of a threshold analysis if the two groups needed to be a mirror image of one another. Such a threshold analysis would hollow out the constitution’s promise of equal protection. Thus, equal protection before the law demands more than the equal application of the classifications made by the law. The law itself must be equal. (argument against procreation as a requirement for marriage)
  • It is true the marriage statute does not expressly prohibit gay and lesbian persons from marrying; it does, however, require that if they marry, it must be to someone of the opposite sex. Viewed in the complete context of marriage, including intimacy, civil marriage with a person of the opposite sex is as unappealing to a gay or lesbian person as civil marriage with a person of the same sex is to a heterosexual. Thus, the right of a gay or lesbian person under the marriage statute to enter into a civil marriage only with a person of the opposite sex is no right at all. (discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal in Iowa)
  • If the marriage statute was truly focused on optimal parenting, many classifications of people would be excluded (child abusers and sexual predators were given as examples), not merely gay and lesbian people (basically there is no fundamental difference in child-rearing between same sex couples and heterosexual parents.)
Oh and this is my favorite part of the ruling...
  • While unexpressed, religious sentiment most likely motivates many, if not most, opponents of same-sex civil marriage and perhaps even shapes the views of those people who may accept gay and lesbian unions but find the notion of same-sex marriage unsettling. Whether expressly or impliedly, much of society rejects same-sex marriage due to sincere, deeply ingrained—even fundamental—religious belief.
  • This contrast of opinions in our society largely explains the absence of any religion-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban. Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates. State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation.
  • And the Pièce de résistance: As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals...
  • A religious denomination can still define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a marriage ceremony performed by a minister, priest, rabbi, or other person ordained or designated as a leader of the person’s religious faith does not lose its meaning as a sacrament or other religious institution. The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law.
Not much to say here. Basically the decision put forth by the Iowa Supreme Court is what I've been feeling all along. It's so nice to see my opinion defended by a legal entity.

So gays have just as much a right to get married as straights do?  Wow. What a concept.*


* Yes, that was sarcasm.


Esther said...

Yeah, I feel the same way. The Iowa court made the same arguments I'd make, except without the footnotes an references to other legal cases! It's simple, decent and common sense. There's no possible government justification to keep gay and lesbian citizens from getting married, except for prejudice and religious beliefs. Which really don't enter into the discussion at all under our system of government.

Bilbo said...

I have to say I'm with you on this, but only part-way. I haven't read the ruling in its entirety like you have, but it sounds like the equivalent of the court decision in Pennsylvania that drove a stake through the heart of the effort to teach creationism in schools by calling it "XXX." In both cases, the government has no business endorsing a religious viewpoint. If we wanted that, we could live in a paradise like Saudi Arabia. I have lots of gay friends, and I don't particularly care if they want to get "married" or "civil unioned" or whatever term you want to use. I think they should have all the civil benefits (as far as taxation, inheritance, medical care decisions, etc, etc) that any other dedicated couple has. I am uncomfortable, though, with allowing gay couples to raise children. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe children need the influence of both a male and a female parent to learn all the perspectives on life they need to know. Boys and girls need fathers and mothers to emulate so that they learn how to make their way in the world. Sorry, but I don't think that gay couples can provide all they need. My opinon.

Bilbo said...

Oops - forgot to replace the "XXX" above with "intelligent design." That's what I get for not proofreading!

anOCgirl said...

esther: re the prejudice and religious argument...EXACTLY! that's why i love that last point i quoted. the court was under no obligation to address the religious issue, but they pretty much cut to the chase and reminded us all that religion has no place in gov't matters.

bilbo: i respectfully disagree. if couples can only be parents based on whether or not they can raise children well (which is a bit of a slippery slope here), i don't understand why the parents would have to be straight. after all, there have been plenty of straight parents who sexually abuse their children or physically/emotionally abuse children. there are plenty of deadbeat dads and single parent households. also, the recent uptick in family murder/suicides pretty much proves that ANYONE can be a sh*tty parent.

my father passed when i was two years old and my mother never remarried. i think she did an excellent job of raising me on her own. this is why i personally don't believe that a child has to have a mother and a father to be able to make their way in the world.

instatick said...

Love it! It's what I've been saying for far too long as well, in regards to the fight for equal rights for gays and in regards to abortion. Religion has absolutely no place in government. Yay Iowa!

As for a man and woman being required to raise children - I disagree for the same reasons you gave: Anyone can be a shitty parent, and likewise, anyone can be a great parent, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, sex, gender, married or unmarried.