Iowa Judges Strikes Down Ban on Gay Marriage

And yes, it has nothing to do with Orange County but it does back my belief that Gay marriage will eventually be the law of the land on constitutional grounds.  Notice that its Republican legislators here, the same one always chest thumping personal freedom and the rights of the individual, who want to jump in with a constitutional amendemtn to ban Gay marriage. 

BREAKING NEWS: Polk judge rules against gay marriage ban

A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa’s law banning gay marriage.  

The ruling by Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he ordered the Polk County recorder to issue marriage licenses to six gay couples.

“This is kind of the American Dream,” said plaintiff Jen BarbouRoske, of Iowa City. “I’m still feeling kind of shaky. It’s pure elation, I just cannot believe it.”

Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, said the ruling requires “full equality for all Iowans including gay and lesbian Iowans and their families.”

“The Iowa Constitution has lived up to its promises of equality for everyone,” she said.

Gay couples from anywhere in Iowa could apply for a marriage license from Polk County. The process takes three days, however.

Polk County is expected to appeal the ruling to the Iowa S upreme Court.

County Attorney John Sarcone said the county would immediately seek a stay from Hanson, which if granted would prevent anyone from seeking a marriage license until an appeal could be heard.

The case will be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which could refer it to the Iowa Court of Appeals, consider the case itself or decide not to hear the case.

Des Moines lawyer Dennis Johnson represented the six gay couples who filed suit after they were denied marriage licenses. He called the ruling “a moral victory for equal rights.”

Johnson argued that Iowa has a long history of aggressively protecting civil rights in cases of race and gender. He said the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Legislature passed in 1998, contradicts previous court rulings regarding civil rights and should be struck down.

Johnson called the Defense of Marriage law “mean spirited” and said it was designed only to prohibit gays from marrying. He said it violates t he state constitution’s equal protection and due-process clauses.

Lambda Legal, which spearheaded a same-sex marriage drive across the country, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the gay and lesbian couples in Polk County District Court on Dec. 13, 2005.

Roger J. Kuhle, an assistant Polk County attorney, argued that the issue is not for a judge to decide.

Rachel Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center, which opposes gay marriage, said the decision will be appealed.

“We’re very disappointed and will pursue to the next level of courts,” she said.

In his ruling, Hanson said the state law allowing marriage only between a man and a woman violates the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.

“Couples, such as plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage… by reason of the fact that both person comprising such a couple are of the same sex,” he said.

The judge said the state law banning same-sex marriage must be nullified, severed and stricken from the books and the marriage laws “must be read and applied in a gender neutral manner so as to permit same-sex couples to enter into a civil marriage…”

State Sen. Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City, said he was surprised by the ruling and promised the Legislature would take another look at the issue.

“We’ll look at something we can do legislatively,” Wieck said.

House Minority Leader Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said the judge’s ruling only illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

“I can’t believe this is happening in Iowa,” he said. “I guarantee you there will a vote on this issue come January.”

Sarcone, the Polk County attorney, said the arguments in the case were similar to those made in litigation around the country.

“I know Judge Hanson took a lot of time with it,” Sarcone said. “He made his decision and we respectfully disagree.”

Kate Varnum, another plaintiff, said she was elated but expected more legal battles.

“I don’t expect this to be the last one,” said Varnum, of Cedar Rapids.

  4 comments for “Iowa Judges Strikes Down Ban on Gay Marriage

  1. August 31, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    While I was excited to learn of this ruling for gay equality, I fear it will be short lived. The Polk County attorney plans on appealing the ruling to the State Supreme Court, and he has already filed a stay to prevent gay couples from marrying until the appeal is resolved.

    What’s worse, Republican House Minority Leader Christopher Rants is already preparing an anti-gay marriage amendment to Iowa’s constitution.

    We saw how the 2003 Massachusetts ruling in favor of marriage equality ushered in backlash across the country, culminating in 27 state amendments denying the right of marriage to gays. I fear this Iowa ruling will have a similar effect, especially with election season upon us. This is why I’m generally against sweeping court decisions like this. I think an incremental steps toward equality such as the ones in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington, Virginia, and Michigan.

    I may be overly pessimistic–a lot has changed even in the five years since the Massachusetts ruling. In spite of all of the state wide amendments banning gay marriage, we have seen several states move in the opposite direction to provide the status of civil unions to gay couples (though still unequal).

    In addition, Rove (mastermind of the gay-baiting tactics to get out the conservative base) is gone. The ‘family values’ wing of the Republican party is awash with the sex scandals of Senators Craig and Vitter. And recent polling has indicated that social wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion may not have the pull they had in past, what with two failing wars in the Middle East and all.

  2. August 31, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    The above post was from Schmitz Blitz

    schmitzblitz.wordpress.com

  3. Andrew Davey
    August 31, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Elizabeth-

    I share your concern… AND your hope. Yes, these rulings do scare me sometimes, as I always fear a homophobic backlash after some “liberal activist judicial ruling”. But OTOH, I also think times have rapidly changed over the last 3 years. As Bush & Co. have continued to tear this nation apart, I think most Americans have wisened up to the “gay-bait & switch” game of riling up people’s emotions on issues like marriage equality and choice, and then turning around and spending the “political capital” “earned” by riling up these emotions on such matters as privatizing Social Security and escalating the failed Iraq occupation. Oh yes, and it’s amazing to see how increasingly accepting my fellow Americans have become of queer people like me. Hopefully, my hope is in the right place, and we’ll see the fanfare over this Iowa court ruling fade off the news cycle after a couple of days.

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    August 31, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    ever notice how when a judge rules in favor of something a consverative wants, they are never called “activitist judges.”

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