In a major ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court has struck down a state law that confines marriage to heterosexual couples. The decision moves the current national debate from the East and West coasts to the heartland.
On aspect of this ruling that distinguishes it from states like California is the more restrictive rules in Iowa concerning constitutional amendments. It will take at least two years for any constitutional amendment to be passed. So, even if traditional marriage advocates move to change the Iowa Constitution (as they did in California), there could be thousands of such marriages processed in the interim. Given the democratic control of the legislature, there may be an even greater problem for advocates to reverse the decision through an amendment, leading to a large number of marriages. The status of the marriages (secured between the ruling of the California Supreme Court and the prohibition amendment) is currently a matter of debate in California.
The unanimous decision by the seven-member court was written by Justice Mark S. Cady under equal protection analysis. The Court rejected the claim that the denial of marriage rights furthered a state interest that would justify the deprivation: “We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective.”
Given the open marriage rules in Iowa, couples from other states will be able to go to Iowa to get married. This could add pressure for a federal constitutional amendment among traditional marriage advocates who fear that other states will be forced to recognize same-sex marriages under the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
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