Monday, April 6, 2009

Two reasons I love the Iowa decision

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.


H4736 said...

You are awesome, Nancy {gush, gush}

allanrbrts said...

Guys there is a great LGBT civil rights organization called the Empowering Spirits Foundation. They are very creative in how they approach this hot topic issue of gay marriage, in that they engage in service oriented activities in communities typically opposed to equal rights to foster thought and change for LGBT equality.

A friend of mine told me about it and I thought it was a great, positive approach to the issue. We had so much fun at the last event and it was great to give back to the community. Plus it was great to converse with others on the other side of the table in a way that wasn't confrontational.

Anyway, this can be such a heated issue and I thought this was a unique approach.

LilySea said...

I loved your book and just propped it a bit at my job writing for Babble online parenting magazine. Just wanted to know where folks can buy it as it's out of stock at Amazon. Is it between hard cover and paper back, I hope?

my_2cents said...

Yes, I agree Nancy. The fact that this state high court - the only one so far with regard to marriage cases - talked about the separation between church and state is so very important - and was repeated in the Gov's statement. Hopefully this will be repeated in future arguments and we can stop the phones from their endless rants that have no place in civil marriage.

And I do wish the plaintiffs wouldn't make insensitive, demeaning and misinformed statements like "and now we can finally be a real family".

Smadraji said...

Nice Posting

Rabbi Gavriel Silverstein said...

Yea, now let's see this fly in the Hate Belt...

Nancy Polikoff said...

Lilysea: The book IS out in paperback! You can get it from Beacon directly, or on line, or ask your local bookseller to stock it.

nrojas0131 said...

Hey for more reading on the subject check out this article by BU Today (Boston University)!

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