Iowa Supreme Court Not Scared Of Its Decision Over Gay Marriage

There is a ton of great reading and insight into the most proper Iowa Supreme Court decision that unanimously provided for gay marriage in that state.  One of the most clear and concise reviews of the decision is the one I post here in its entirety, as I deem it that important as it is so well presented.

[This post summarizes the Iowa Supreme Court marriage decision in Varnum v. Brien.  Another post, updated throughout the day, provides follow-up information about what could happen next and what people are saying about this decision.]

The Iowa motto, “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain,” was noted by Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady in his unanimous opinion for the Court striking down Iowa’s ban on marriage between same-sex couples (PDF).  Today, for the first time ever in this country, a state’s highest court spoke strongly and with one voice in support of marriage equality.

Moreover, the opinion subtly implies that this is as it should be and goes on the offense against cries of judicial activism:

As other Iowans have done in the past when faced with the enforcement of a law that prohibits them from engaging in an activity or achieving a status enjoyed by other Iowans, the twelve plaintiffs turned to the courts to challenge the statute.

Slip op., at 8.  The Court smartly goes on to fully, simply and clearly explain exactly why this decision is nothing extraordinary:

The legislature, in carrying out its constitutional role to make public policy decisions, enacted a law that effectively excludes gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage.  The executive branch of government, in carrying out its role to execute the law, enforced this statute through a county official who refused to issue marriage licenses to six same-sex couples.  These Iowans, believing that the law is inconsistent with certain constitutional mandates, exercised their constitutional right to petition the courts for redress of their grievance.  This court, consistent with its role to interpret the law and resolve disputes, now has the responsibility to determine if the law enacted by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch violates the Iowa Constitution.

Slip op., at 13.  This is a court that knows how wildly and inaccurately its decision will be criticized, and it has come to the case prepared.  This is not a court that is scared of its decision; this is a court that has proudly and loudly defended its decision in the opinion itself. This also is a court steadfast in its understanding of what it is here to do:

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.

Slip op., at 15.  Laying a strong foundation of its purpose and Iowans’ basic right to turn to the courts, Justice Cady then turns to the equal protection question, which he posits that the plaintiffs frame as such: “How can a state premised on the constitutional principle of equal protection justify exclusion of a class of Iowans from civil marriage?” Slip op., at 18

The Court concludes that same-sex couples unallowed to marry in Iowa are similarly situated to the opposite-sex couples allowed to marry:

[F]or purposes of Iowa’s marriage laws, which are designed to bring a sense of order to the legal relationships of committed couples and their families in myriad ways, plaintiffs are similarly situated in every important respect, but for their sexual orientation.  As indicated above, this distinction cannot defeat the application of equal protection analysis through the application of the similarly situated concept because, under this circular approach, all distinctions would evade equal protection review.

Slip op., at 28-29.  The Court, as did Justice O’Connor in her Equal Protection concurrence in Lawrence v. Texas, asserts that Iowa’s marriage ban is a ban based on sexual orientation because “the conduct targeted by this law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual.” Slip op., at 31 (quoting Lawrence, O’Connor, J. concurring).

The Court holds that heightened scrutiny applies to sexual orientation.  Because it finds the marriage ban unconstitutional under intermediate scrutiny, it has no need to determine whether strict scrutiny should apply to classifications based on sexual orientation.

The Court’s harsh analysis of “protecting traditional marriage” is essential reading:

If a simple showing that discrimination is traditional satisfies equal protection, previous successful equal protection challenges of invidious racial and gender classifications would have failed.

Slip op., at 53.  The Court also goes through the other arguments advanced by the state for the marriage ban: “optimal environment to raise children,” “promotion of procreation,” “promotion of stability in opposite-sex relationships” — with the great lines, “[W]e must evaluate whether excluding gay and lesbian people from civil marriage encourages stability in opposite-sex relationships.  The County offers no reasons that it does, and we can find none.” — and “conservation of resources.” It finds them likewise unpersuasive reasons for excluding gay couples from marriage.

The Court concludes:

While the objectives asserted may be important (and many undoubtedly are important), none are furthered in a substantial way by the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage.  Our equal protection clause requires more than has been offered to justify the continued existence of the same-sex marriage ban under the statute.

Slip op., at 63.  The Court, in a simple and smart act of honesty, goes on to address what it calls “the reason for the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage left unspoken by the County:  religious opposition to same-sex marriage.”  The Court holds:

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.

Slip op., at 67.  Finally, the Court considers the remedy and quickly dismisses any attempts at civil unions:

Other courts have allowed their state legislatures to create parallel civil institutions for same-sex couples. See Lewis v. Harris, 908 A.2d 196, 221 (N.J. 2006); Baker v. State, 744 A.2d 864, 887 (Vt. 1999).

Iowa Code section 595.2 is unconstitutional because the County has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage. 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.

Slip op. at 68.  With that, the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court eliminated the ban to marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in Iowa, liberties prized and rights maintained.

Mass Death In Gun Violence In New York State

And again we have more gun violence.

 Hospitals in the area postponed all elective surgeries and called in extra personnel to staff their emergency rooms.

A dozen people or more may be shot at a public assistance office in Binghamton, NY, northwest of New York City and southwest of Albany. Mutiple deaths have been reported, and hostages were taken.

The shooting happened at the American Civic Association building. It assists refugees and immigrants with re-locating to the United States, helping them find housing and jobs.

The shooter is believed to be an Asian male is his 20’s who locked at least one door to the facility, hampering those inside who were trying to escape the gunfire.

What horror.

According to police reports, more than 40 hostages were in the building — 15 in a closet and 26 in the boiler room. Sharp shooters from the Binghamton SWAT team were poised outside the building at 131 Front Street. The Endicott police bomb squad is also at the scene.

Scanner reports just before 1:30 p.m. indicate that police were asking 26 people in the Civic Association to lie on the floor with the hands above their heads.

Shortly after noon, about 10 people were released from the building, with hands on their heads. The police searched some of them. Around 12:40 p.m., another 10 were released from the rear of the building, clad in white sheets. They were shaken and hugged each other as they boarded a BC Transit bus.

Video: Reaction To Amazing Unanimous Iowa Court Ruling For Gay Marriage

The best part is that this court ruling happened in Iowa.  The heartland of America!

And from 2007 comes the following video which gives a cross-section of thoughts from Iowa, along with a message.

Major Ruling: Gay Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional

UPDATED

The world of the bigots got smaller today.  Not  a good day to be a Mormon at the church’s headquarters?

There was great news today when the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that gay marriage is unconstitutional.  This is a major ruling that is well written, reasoned, and argued meeting all of the legal tests.  As of this writing I am about half way through the 69 pages of the ruling, but desire to get this post up.  More on this matter later here.

Read the powerful decision here.

Even the religious angle is addressed at the end of the ruling.  In smart tight writing  it refutes the absurd nature of the whole idea of the religious right.  I find it very appropriate that the Supreme Court noted that the equal protection argument was the only one that it needed to consider when making its finding.  That argument  in and of itself was so strong as to make for a unanimous ruling. 

I also had to snicker at the county’s argument that to deny gay marriage would save money.  To that the court stated that perhaps then the state would then need to look at a larger group of people getting married, such as second time marriages, and the cost they force onto the state.   There is much to love in this ruling, and the smart way it was constructed.  After reading this decision I still have to ask exactly what threat the conservatives feel will take place with gay marriage.  None exists.    The only reason that anyone ever raises objections to gay marriage is based solely on prejudice and hate.

 But make no mistake about it.  The bigotry that the opponents stand on to deny the rights of all loving couples to marry is being chipped away and undermined with law and logic.  Slowly a new day is dawning in this country.  Someday the sun will even shine in Coloma, Wisconsin.

“The Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution,” the justices said in a summary of their decision.

And later in the ruling, they said: “Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike. Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women’s rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past.”