The seven justices on the Iowa Supreme
court ruled unanimously Friday in favor of six gay and lesbian
couples who had been denied a marriage license. Justices not only
endorsed gay marriage, they also rejected the remedy of civil unions
for gay and lesbian couples. Gay and lesbian couples can marry as
early as Friday, April 24. It is a sweeping win for gay rights
advocates with national implications.
The court rejected all objections to
gay marriage when it said gay couples are equal under the law to
“[W]ith respect to the government's
purpose of 'providing an institutional basis for defining the
fundamental relational rights and responsibilities of persons,'
same-sex couple are similarly situated to opposite-sex couples,”
adding that, “The Legislature has excluded a historically
disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil
institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.”
The plaintiffs, who filed their lawsuit
in 2005, spoke at a press conference hosted by Lambda Legal, the
legal group that argued the case. One by one, the couples approached
the podium and thanked the Iowa Supreme Court for its decision.
Opponents gathered outside the state
Supreme Court building, where they pressed lawmakers to reverse the
court's decision. Members of the Iowa Family Policy Center urged
passage of a bill that would call for a referendum to ban gay
marriage in the state constitution. A constitutional amendment
requires passage by both houses of the Legislature in two consecutive
legislative sessions and a majority vote of the people. Such a bill
is currently before the State Government Committee, but with only 10
days left in the session passage appears unlikely.
“A handful of people who were not
elected to office – they were appointed – have rendered a
decision; a decision that is contrary to the will of the people.
It's contrary to God's law. And it's time for the people through
their elected officials and their elected representatives to decide
what the law is going to be in this state. Courts do not determine
law, people determine law. This is government of the people, by the
people and for the people,” Danny Carroll, a former Republican
legislator and chairman of the Iowa Family Policy Center, told
But there was no raining on the rainbow-colored parade, and gay groups praised the ruling.
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of
Empire State Pride Agenda, a group that lobbies for gay marriage in
New York, said he was “thrilled” with the decision.
“We are happy that another state has
joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in declaring that nothing short
of full marriage equality will put an end to the hardships that many
of our families experience on a daily basis,” Van Capelle said in a
“Today, America's heart can truly be
found in the heartland,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director
of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a
nationwide gay and lesbian support group. “At last, every family
in Iowa will be afforded the rights, protections and responsibilities
that their commitments deserve.”
“Without a single page of dissent,
the shepherds of Iowa's constitution have risen to the defense of
loving couples and upheld the most noble idea of our legal system:
that, indeed, we are created, and must be treated, equally under the
law,” he continued.
“This ruling marks another watershed
moment in the struggle for full equality,” Rea Carey, executive
director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a
statement praising the ruling.
Iowa joins Massachusetts and
Connecticut in offering gay marriage. Gay marriage became available
briefly in California when the state Supreme Court ruled a 2000
voter-approved gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but voters yanked
the right back when they banned gay marriage in the constitution.
Meanwhile, gay marriage in Vermont
hangs by a thread. Last night, the Democratic-led House approved a
gay marriage bill, joining the Senate, which voted in favor of the
law last week. But the bill passed five votes shy of the
three-quarters majority needed to fend off a promised veto by
Governor Jim Douglas that threatens to derail gay marriage in