Iowa Legislative Leaders: Iowa Has Always Led In Civil Rights
April 3rd, 2009
As a Midwesterner, some of the reactions to the Iowa Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage has rankled me a bit. You know, the those condescending reactions that go, “Really? Iowa? A square state in the middle of the country?” As if Iowans — or any other Midwesterners — are any less capable of dealing with discrimination than anyone else.
Well, here’s a joint statement from Iowa’s Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy on today’s Supreme Court decision that puts the Iowa Supreme Court decision squarely in context with Iowa’s long history of justice:
Thanks to today’s decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens’ equal rights.
The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.
When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.
Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.
Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.
In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.
In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.
In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.
Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.
This is the first time a state supreme court ruled unanimously on an issue like this.
So what next? It doesn’t look like there’s much of a threat to this ruling. To amend the Iowa Constitution, the proposed amendment has to be approved by the Iowa legislature in two successive sessions before it is put before the voters. Sen. Gronstal has already announced that “there will not be a vote as long as I am the majority leader.” So this pushes the first vote in the Senate out until the 2011-2012 session, which means the earliest an amendment could come before the voters would be 2013. And that assumes that the Senate changes hands in 2010. If the Senate doesn’t change hands (Democrats have a 32-18 advantage), then the date for a popular vote is pushed out even farther.
This decision seems to be very secure. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, who represented the county where the complaint originated, announced that his office would not seek a rehearing, so the court’s decision will take effect on April 24.