Based on a unanimous ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court, Iowa has become the third state in the nation to allow gay marriage (joining Connecticut and Massachusetts). The following excerpt is from the Desmoine Register:
Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage,” Cady wrote in the 69-page opinion that seemed to dismiss the concept of civil unions as an option for gay couples.
“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,” Cady wrote.
The ruling, however, also addressed what it called the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate,” and said judges must remain outside the fray. . .
“Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them,” the opinion says.
The ruling explicitly does not affect “the freedom of a religious organization to define marriage it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman,” the justices stressed.
Although I haven’t yet read the opinion, it sounds like the Justices are pointing to a common-sense compromise to the gay marriage dispute: The civil ceremony applies to any two people and the state must not discriminate as to sex by requiring those two people to be of the opposite sex. The state-sanctioned marriage will endow all couples equally with all of the legal benefits of marriage. On the other hand, religions are free to define marriage as they would like. A conservative church would be free to reject an application to marry same sex couples. I think that this is the best way to approach the national divide. If your religion is really important to you, go ahead and let your religion (not your government) define marriage. In the meantime, don’t try to deny government benefits to others based upon sex differences.
When I read the opinion, I’m interested in knowing how the Court found discrimination. After all, the traditional government definition is not anti-woman or anti-man. In a sense, it’s even-handed. From the perspective of any gay person seeking to be married, though, that definition trods on what I would agree to be fundamental liberties such as the right to associate. After I review the opinion, I’ll add a comment.