I've got two reasons for loving the Iowa Supreme Court ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
The first is what the opinion doesn't say. It doesn't say, not once, that marriage is the essential building block of society. It doesn't glorify marriage. It doesn't call marriage uniquely valuable, or unique in any way. It doesn't suggest society would fall apart without it.
Instead, the court's opinion is about equality. On that score, it gets the issue exactly right. As long as different-sex couples can marry, same-sex couples must be allowed to marry because there is no good reason for distinguishing between the two. The court considered all of the state's reasons for making the distinction and found them all lacking.
But if the state wanted to change the name of the legal status of all couples to something else, such as civil partnership, nothing in this opinion suggests that would be a constitutional violation.
The second reason I love the decision is because it responds so simply and logically to the arguments about the best interests of children. By way of contrast, when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Lofton case upheld Florida's ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians, it said that the state could assume that children would be better off raised by heterosexual couples and that it could let single heterosexuals adopt, but not single gay men/lesbians, because there was a chance that a single heterosexual would someday marry someone of a different sex and thereby provide the optimal environment for the child. No good sense or logic there!
The Iowa court, on the other hand, methodically considered and rejected every conceivable relationship between denying marriage to same-sex couples and the best interests of children. In fact, it made mincemeat of those arguments.
The court called "largely unsupported by reliable scientific studies" the "thoughtful and sincere" opinions that dual-gender parenting is the optimal environment for children. Rather, the opinion states, "plaintiffs presented an abundance of evidence and research, confirmed by our independent research, supporting the proposition that the interests of children are served equally by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents."
The court said if the state was truly concerned with the optimal environment for children it would exclude other categories of people, such as child abusers and sexual predators. Plus, it noted, the marriage ban does not prohibit same-sex couples from raising children. (And if the state wanted to do that, the court suggested that would be a different constitutional violation!). So the real point of the ban, the court said, is likely stereotype and prejudice. Got that right.
Thanks, Iowa. Both for the outcome of the case and for its reasons.