PI Original Adam Doster Friday April 3rd, 2009, 10:49am

Iowa Upholds Same-Sex Marriage - Is Illinois Next?

It's a great day for the Midwest. In a unanimous decision this morning, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Reviewing a district court decision allowing six gay couples to wed,
the high court ruled that Iowa’s definition of marriage, which ...

It's a great day for the Midwest. In a unanimous decision this morning, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry. Reviewing a district court decision allowing six gay couples to wed, the high court ruled that Iowa’s definition of marriage, which excluded same-sex couples, violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. The Iowa Independent provides a copy of the full ruling here.  In order to overturn the ruling, legislators would have to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot and the earliest that could happen is November 2012.

The decision should carry a special resonance in Illinois, which, like most other states, has a law on the books defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Iowa is now the first Midwestern state -- and only the fourth nationwide -- to allow gay marriages. Lawyers for Lambda Legal, a New-York based gay rights organization that represented the couples, "had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America."

Prairie State lawmakers should take a cue from our neighbors to the west. Chicago Democrat Rep. Greg Harris has already introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which seeks to “to provide eligible same-sex and opposite-sex couples with the same treatment as those in a civil marriage.”

Harris also has introduced a less expansive civil unions bill (HB 2234), which died in committee at the end of last session. It's worth noting that the Iowa Supreme Court went out of its way to explicity reject civil unions as an "alternative remedy" in their ruling:

Iowa Code section 595.2 is unconstitutional because the County has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage. A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.  This record, our independent research, and the appropriate equal protection analysis do not suggest the existence of a justification for such a legislative classification that substantially furthers any governmental objective.  Consequently, the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.

The take-away from the Iowa decision should be this: Those unwilling to grant equal rights to all Illinois citizens are going to end up on the wrong side of history.

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