Iowa legalizes same-sex marriage in Supreme Court ruling

BY ADAM SULLIVAN | APRIL 03, 2009 10:18 AM

Iowa is now one of three states to allow gay marriage.

A unanimous ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court decided that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The ruling was handed down Friday morning.

The precedent came from the Court’s ruling in Varnum vs. Brien, a case in which six same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses from the Polk County Recorder.

“We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law,” the Supreme Court stated in a summary of the ruling. “If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived from the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded.”

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Because of high traffic to the Supreme Court’s website, the official ruling was difficult to access Friday morning. However, Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said the ruling would likely take a few weeks to take effect across the state.

UI law professor Ann Estin said the ruling is unsurprising given Iowa’s history of civil rights.
“I think a lot of people around the country will be surprised to see this ruling in Iowa. But the truth is, Iowa has a long history of being progressive on civil rights issues,” Estin said.

In anticipation of today’s decision, some opponents of same-sex marriage were concerned about consequences of the precedent.

“If we’re going to start giving [financial] benefits to whoever, there are real costs to the state,” Iowa Family Policy Center spokesman Bryan English told the DI in December.

Others were optimistic about the ruling’s implications.

“Iowa is a great state,” said David Leshtz, former chair of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. “I think the sky hasn’t fallen in Connecticut or Massachusetts, and it’s not going to fall in Iowa.”

Check Monday’s Daily Iowan for extended coverage of the Supreme Court’s ruling and local reaction.

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