By now I’m assuming you’ve heard about Friday’s unanimous decision from Iowa’s Supreme Court overturning the ban on same-sex marriage on the grounds that the ban violated the state’s equal protection clause. I wanted to give myself time to read the decision and reflect before I spouted off at the mouth. The decision to overturn the ban was a unanimous decision by the 7 judges on the court. All of whom but one (I think) were appointed by Republican governors. The decision is well written and the text shows the humanity of the judges. In the text, the judges talk about small things people dont even think about when they think about the benefits of marriage. Things like spousal membership at a gym. Or that because homosexual couples cannot get married it makes adoption much more difficult. That the couples who petitioned the court are contributing members of society and their community. Here is an excerpt from the text:
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.
For anyone who argues that homosexuality is against the constitution or against the principals on which this nation was founded the last statement is one I would go back to. Our Constitution is a living document. It wasnt long ago when the definition of equality only applied to white, land owning, men. As our society has grown more diverse our definition of equality has also grown. Not that this has always happened quickly. To those who would argue that this was a decision of the court that does not reflect the will of the voters (my own Mother is included in this) Equal protection also means protecting a minority from the tyranny of the majority and there are times, this being one of them, when that role is in the hands of our courts. To give equal protection, equal rights under the law. How much longer would segregated schooling have lasted if was voted on instead of the US Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education? What about slavery or Roe? It’s not to say that our courts are always perfect. But, there are times when it is the role of the court to advance liberty and protect us from our own stupidity.
I talked to my parents about this over the weekend. Both of them were surprised and both think the majority of Iowans are surprised. Hell, I’m surprised. The town I come from, the town where my parents still live, is fairly conservative. When I was a kid there was a young Catholic priest who came to one of the parishes. He had an earring and was forced to leave the parish over it. No. I am not joking. When African-Americans started moving into the community it was “Oh, they’re moving here from Chicago because Iowa has more generous welfare benefits” It’s not okay to be openly gay. You’re asking to get beaten up.
Anyway, we talked about it. My Dad was surprised. He said he didnt know Iowa was so progressive. His overall attitude was “whatever”. My Mom said it was a decision by the court and not the voters. To which I responded by asking how long would slavery or Jim Crowe have lasted if it was put up for a vote. The three of us wonder the same. Whether my cousin and his partner of 7+ years will get married. The state will be able to start issuing licenses in 3 weeks.
I’m still surprised. Even today, Monday, 3 days later. This is the state where Pat Robertson came in second in the 1988 Republican Caucus. I dont know if it’ll last, I dont know that, in the end, it wont end up being overturned by a constitutional amendment, but constitutional amendments are harder to get passed in Iowa. It’s not like Oregon. Any push for a constitutional amendment on marriage would have to wait until the 2011 legislative session. Maybe (and this is my hope) that by then, two years from now, people will be more used to this decision and it wont be a big deal. That people who would use religion to excuse their prejudice and bigotry wont get any traction.
That being said, I was proud of Iowa Friday, and I’m still proud of Iowa and proud to be from Iowa today.