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Iowa Legislative Leaders: Iowa Has Always Led In Civil Rights

Jim Burroway

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.



April 3rd, 2009 | LINK


Congratulations Iowa!!!

It is so nice to finally get some good news for marriage equality!

Come on Obama!


April 3rd, 2009 | LINK

New York Law School Professor, Arthur S. Leonard, has provided one of the BEST analysis of the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on same-sex marriage.

Iowa Supreme Court Rules Unanimously for Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples

April 3rd, 2009 | LINK

This ruling is another episode in the sorry saga of the disintegration of American democracy.

The people of this country can no longer create any social or cultural institution without the approval of judges.

When deciding a case, a court is properly bound by the original meaning of the law. It is not the judiciary’s prerogative to ‘evolve’ the law to suit judges’ personal policy preferences.

I have said this on BTB before, and I will say it again: equal protection is about not making arbitrary distinctions between individuals. It doesn’t preclude making distinctions between one kind of social institution and another.

What gay activists gain as homosexuals from activist rulings like this they lose for themselves — and everyone else — in terms of their sovereignty as citizens.

Rulings like this are equivalent to pro-lifers getting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling defining zygotes as persons and requiring that all contragestive measures be considered as murder. The people who sought such a ruling would rejoice over the outcome; any concern over whether the ruling resulted from applying neutral judicial principles to the Constitution would be beneath their notice.

This is what gay activists are doing when they sue for same-sex marriage in court. People who believe that governments obtain their just authority from the consent of the governed shouldn’t cheer these activist — and their tunnel-vision — on.

PS: If you want to take exception to this comment, then kindly tell us:

1. How the Court applied the original meaning of the Iowa Constitution to this case,


2. How the creative reinvention of law by judges isn’t destructive of popular sovereignty.

And by logical, not wildly emotional.

April 3rd, 2009 | LINK

In the postscript to my comment above, the by should be (of course) be.

And let me add:

Don’t argue with ad hominems like

‘Dave, you’re homophobic’

or ‘Dave, you have problems with gay people.’ (That one’s for you, Timothy Kincaid.)

That sort of thing fall under the category of wildly emotional (and irrational).

Priya Lynn
April 4th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks for the whining Dave. It cheers me up even more to hear your type crying/

Timothy Kincaid
April 4th, 2009 | LINK

Either one believes in equality or one does not.

Appeals to the greater wisdom of The Founders and their Original Intent are little more than a distraction from the question of whether one truly believes in the principle of equality.

Let’s not set aside our principles in order to engage in ancestor worship.

April 4th, 2009 | LINK

I have said this on BTB before, and I will say it again: equal protection is about not making arbitrary distinctions between individuals. It doesn’t preclude making distinctions between one kind of social institution and another.

In any other country you would laughed out of any conversation. Only in the U.S. are doctrines of Equal Protection and Due Process considered unbelievably complicated and intricate beyond anyone’s ken. Which is the result of 40+ years of strenuous and extreme efforts to pervert and annul these doctrines in the thinking of American voters.

As a result, only in this country is can people say in effect that there is such a thing as too much justice, too much rigor, and too much equality and be taken seriously. That catastrophe awaits the society for being too fair.

Priya Lynn
April 4th, 2009 | LINK

From the decision:

“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.”

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes poignantly said, “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”

April 4th, 2009 | LINK

A small point: The next general election after 2012 is 2014. So marriage equality will have been the law of Iowa for at least five and one half years before any vote can come before the electorate. Can you spell YAWN?

Leonard Drake
April 4th, 2009 | LINK


I am not going to argue that the judges were “activist judges,” that the judges “creatively reinvented the law,” or they stepped outside the “original bounds” of the Iowa Constitution to destroy “popular sovreignty. Rather, I would like first to remind you the Iowa Constitution and subsequent governmental policies and procedures are modeled after the United States.

It is a very common — and oft overstated — misconception that the United States is a democracy. It is not. The United States is a Constitutional Republic. In a pure democracy, the majority rules, WITH ABOLUTELY NO EXCEPTION. In a Constitional Republic, however, checks and balances are in place to ensure governmental powers and, YES, even the “majority ‘how I vote goes’ rule” voters do not always apply, especially when minority rights are being affected. This is where the COURTS APPLY. This is NOT called “activism”: it is called the Counstitution at work.

I strongly encourage those people who are not happy with the Iowa Supreme Court ruling — on this particular site, I do not expect there to be many — to read the ruling. Yes, it is long, but it is an eloquent and LOGICAL conclusion whose time has arrived. Dave, I encourage you to read this decision as you will also understand how the judges are especially not “activists,” but merely reading and applying the Iowa Constitution as it has always been applied in that state. The decision is rife with case law, and you are more than welcome to read Varnum v. Brian, 07-1499 at the Iowa Supreme Court Website below:

Ben in Oakland
April 5th, 2009 | LINK

David– I would also add this, which I’ve added many times before. And you’ll just have to pardon my typing.

This is not about marriage, tradition, judicial activism, or any other rationalization du jour, and never has been for the people who would say: “You’re homosexual. You’re different. We can do whatever we like.”
It is simply about what it has always been about: how much the very existence of gay people offends, entices, obsesses, and frightens some straight people, as well as those-who-wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t.

This is what the south did with segregation. This is why SCOTUS stepped in. This is why it was right then and it is right now.

I am an american citizen, a tax payer, a law abiding and productive member of the ocmmunity, well thought of by family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Any man and woman, no matter how many times married, no matter if they killed their last spouse, no matter how ill advised it would for them to marry, let alone reproduce, can get married as often and as badly as they are legally able to do, and pop out children for no other reason than that they can. They don’t even need to be a taxpayer, or law abiding, or well thought of.

Yet they have more rights, benefits, and responsibilties than I do… which brings us to the real crux of the issue.

This is not about what the american people may think about gay people, marriage, or any of it. This is about how MY GOVERNMENT treats me and my husband. It is legally enjoined to treat me as an equal citizen, not as a special case because someone doesn’t like the fact that I am gay, or think their god doesn’t like it.

This argument about loss of sovereignty is nonsense. I haven’t lost any sovereignty. rather, I have finally been granted the sovereignty which is due to me by my birth, both as a human being and as an american citizen. The only soveriegnty anyone else has lost is the sovereignty known as the myth of heterosexual superiority and the realizty of heterosexual privilege. And the only people that have lost THAT are the people who believe that the myth is true and that they are entitled to it to begin with.

From the CT Supreme Court Decision:
Gay persons have been subjected to and stigmatized by a long history of purposeful and invidious discrimination that continues to manifest itself in society. The characteristic that defines the members of this group—attraction to persons of the same sex—bears no logical relationship to their ability to perform in society, either in familial relations or otherwise as productive citizens. Because sexual orientation is such an essential component of personhood, even if there is some possibility that a person’s sexual preference can be altered, it would be wholly unacceptable for the state to require anyone to do so. Gay persons also represent a distinct minority of the population. It is true, of course, that gay persons recently have made significant advances in obtaining equal treatment under the law. Nonetheless, we conclude that, as a minority group that continues to suffer the enduring effects of centuries of legally sanctioned discrimination, laws singling them out for disparate treatment are subject to heightened judicial scrutiny to ensure that those laws are not the product of such historical prejudice and stereotyping.

Jason D
April 5th, 2009 | LINK

Dave, as usual, wants someone else to do the homework…sorry, Not submitting to Dave’s bait and attempt to hijack the comments section(again). It is a genius move though. He comes in here after the verdict and says “It’s wrong, it’s bad, they’re destroying the country — now prove how I’m not wrong” Dave, you haven’t proved that you’re right.
Merely saying that they weren’t following the original intent of the law, that the original intent matters, and that we have all lost freedom does not make it so. I encourage everyone to not take the bait.

Let Dave actually submit his logical, but MORE IMPORTANTLY – law-based, arguments that are in keeping with the Iowa Constitution.

April 5th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks, Ben. I could type it better, but I couldn’t say it better.

Ben in Oakland
April 5th, 2009 | LINK

mean, gordo, mean.

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