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Victory in the Heartland April 3, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Christian Right, Gay Rights, National Politics, popular culture.
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Today in a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state statute that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  In a 69-page opinion, the three justice panel stated, ” If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded.”  The panel’s decision makes Iowa the third state in the nation, after Massachusetts and Connecticut, to allow gay marriage.  The battle now shifts back to California – where that state’s highest court heard arguments against Proposition 8 – and to the Vermont legislature – where lawmakers are considering a bill to make the state’s civil union law one of full marriage rights.

The Iowa ruling is significant because of it being in Iowa.  Gay rights are often looked upon as something only the loony lefties on the coasts are interested in – as if there are no gay people in middle America.   Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights and a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the early 1990s said of the decision,  “I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest sate in the mainstream of American thought.”  Indeed.  Iowa set the tone for the presidential election and has been a bellweather state in terms of showing changes in traditional rural voting patterns.

But just because the Iowa courts are enlightened, it doesn’t mean that our intolerant friends from the Christian right are going to take this lying down.  Already this morning, they gathered at the Iowa state house to object to the ruling and began the process of amending Iowa’s constitution to deny gays the right to marry.  Iowa Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) issued the following statement this morning:  “The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels. I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state. Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people.”

One Christian protester, Craig Overton of Pleasant Hill, had been carrying signs before the result was known.  Overton’s jaw dropped when he heard the news. He’s opposed to same-sex marriage, he said. “I don’t want this taught in schools,” Overton said. “Animals don’t do that. I don’t like it. I have small children, and I just don’t think this is right. I think the people ought to be allowed to vote on this instead of letting just a few people make all the rules.”

It is time that the gay marriage challenge goes to the United States Supreme Court.  New Jersey and New Hampshire have civil union laws, and New York has passed legislation that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states.   Until the U.S. Supremes get a crack at the issue, we hope that as more states allow and recognize gay marriages, heterosexual couples will realize they are no threat, and this opposition will fall away.

(read a summary of the opinion HERE)

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[…] Victory in the Heartland « Kate’s Kitchen Table […]


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