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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On the Freedom to Marry - Part XII

In an argument made before the Supreme Court of Iowa,[1] the people and organizations that were defending Iowa state law (at that time), prohibiting same sex couples from being married, in keeping with the federal Defense of Marriage Act (then the law of the of the land), allowed Iowa to not acknowledge the marriages of same sex couples legally entered into in other states; the proponents of that unjust law cited these basic interests:

The first three interests are broadly related to the advancement
of child rearing. Specifically, the objectives centered on promoting
procreation, promoting child rearing by a mother and a father within a
marriage, and promoting stability in an opposite-sex relationship to raise
and nurture children. The fourth interest raised by the County addressed
the conservation of state resources, while the final reason concerned the
governmental interest in promoting the concept and integrity of the
traditional notion of marriage.[2]
The essence of these arguments amounts to a request that the tradition of heterosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage only, be preserved, over and against any other form of marriage. However, these arguments failed to address what compelling interest the state had in denying the freedom to marry, to same-sex couples.

The arguments were merely a plea to the court, a plea to allow the State of Iowa to continue the systematic disenfranchisement of a group of its citizens, to continue the practice of telling gay women and gay men that they are not, in fact, full citizens, and that their hopes for themselves, the hope to be married, their hopes to raise their families in the state of wedlock should never be realized.

The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, twelve people who had the courage to challenge Iowa’s discriminatory laws. The ruling cited other famous cases in which the issue of equal protection before the law was the central issue, cases like: Dread Scott v. Sanford, and Brown v. Board of Education.

On the issue of equal protection the court found that:

With respect to the subject and purposes of Iowa’s marriage laws, we find that the plaintiffs are similarly situated compared to heterosexual persons. Plaintiffs are in committed and loving relationships, many raising families, just like heterosexual couples. Moreover, official recognition of their status provides an institutional basis for defining their fundamental relational rights and responsibilities, just as it does for heterosexual couples. Society benefits, for example, from providing samesex couples a stable framework within which to raise their children and the
power to make health care and end-of-life decisions for loved ones, just as it does when that framework is provided for opposite-sex couples. In short, for purposes of Iowa’s marriage laws, which are designed to bring a sense of order to the legal relationships of committed couples and their families in myriad ways, plaintiffs are similarly situated in every important respect, but for their sexual orientation.[3]

In the opinion of most people, including myself; the Supreme Court of Iowa is not a radical court.

Iowa is not a radical state.

To use a generic term; Iowa is “America’s heartland,” is a truism, Iowa is both geographically and politically central to the nation.

Neither the “left wing” of the American electorate, nor the “right wing” dominates this state. In consideration of the fact that the Supreme Court in Iowa rejected the arguments of those who sought to continue a tradition of discrimination, imagine yourself explaining those arguments, imagine yourself justifying a right to discriminate, to the American girl, or the American boy in another state; why the justice that was found in Iowa should not be had in California or Maine or any other territory, protectorate, or sovereign land where the United States Constitution is the law.

The Iowa Supreme Court found correctly, that allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry constitutes a public good.

It strengthens families.

It promotes marriage.

It empowers people who are partners in same-sex relationships to care for their loved ones at the end of life.

They also found that, while the state of marriage is essentially contractual, being married is more than just being in a contract with another person. It is a change in social status, a status to which same-sex couples cannot obtain if they are legally prevented from being married.

What the court has arrived at through this insight is the fact that denying these rights to same-sex couples perpetuates an unjust and classist society in which social advancement is available to some but not to others.

The court found that:

“The benefit denied by the marriage statute—the status of civil marriage for same-sex couples (prohibiting same-sex couples from being married)—is so “closely correlated with being homosexual” as to make it apparent the law is targeted at gay and lesbian people as a class.”[4]

[1]Iowa Supreme Court, No. 07–1499, filed April 3rd, 2009
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