In a powerful unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples in the state is unconstitutional. Iowa now joins Massachusetts and Connecticut in offering marriage licenses without discrimination based on couples' sexual orientation.
Writing for the entire court, Justice Cady wrote: "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. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."
Immediately following the decision, Lambda Legal, the statewide political group One Iowa and the plaintiffs held a press conference outside the courtroom. "The Court's decision is exhaustive, well-thought out and supported by the Iowa Constitution," says Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton. "The ruling is legally compelling and consistent with the most basic of Iowa values — fairness, strong communities and protection for families."
In 2005, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit with the Polk County Court on behalf of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Iowa, and on behalf of three of their children, arguing that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the liberty and equality guarantees in the state's constitution. In 2007, the trial court ruled in our favor. Less than a year later, 15 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed supporting same-sex couples seeking the right to marry, and the right of their children not to have their families labeled as inferior by the government. Those briefs were signed by hundreds of Iowans including former Lieutenant Governors Joy Corning and Sally Pederson. The April 3, 2009 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court upholds the 2007 ruling.
Iowa currently requires a three-day waiting period between applying for a license and receiving it unless the couple pays a $5 fee and a judge signs a waiver. According to the decision, county recorders will start issuing marriage licenses on April 24.
Lambda Legal and One Iowa celebrated equality across the state with marriage rallies. Together, we've been making the case for equality in Iowa. "This is an amazing day — we're smiling ear to ear," says Jason Morgan, a plaintiff in the case. Morgan's spouse-to-be Chuck Swaggerty added, "Marriage and commitment are important values in our family and when we marry we'll be able to show our children just what that means."