Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gay Marriage in the Heartland

I pick out some quotes from the opinion, Varnum, et al. v. Polk County, which was issued by the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously. As these arguments are not being made by easy-to-target progressives from the coasts, I would like to know the thoughts of anyone regarding whether or not this shift from the coasts to the heartland changes the debate.
The County aruges that same-sex marriage ban promotes the "integrity of traditional marriage" by "maintaing the historical and traditional marriage norm as between a man and a woman." This argument is straightforward and has superficial appeal. A specific tradition sought to be maintained cannot be an important governmental objective for equal protection purposes, however, when the tradition is nothing more than the historical classification currently expressed in the statute being challenged...

We begin with the County's argument that the goal of the same-sex marriage ban is to ensure children will be raised only in the optimal milieu [of one father and one mother]. In pursuit of this objective, the statutory exclusion of gay and lesbian people is both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. The civil marriage statute is under-inclusive because it does not exclude from marriage other groups of parents - such as child abusers, sexual predators, parents neglecting to provide child support and violent felons - that are undeniably less than optimal parents. Such under-inclusion tends to demonstrate that the sexual orientation-based classification is grounded in prejudice or overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities or preferences of gay and lesbian people, rather than having a substantial relationship to some important objective. The ban on same-sex marriage is substantially over-inclusive because not all same-sex couples choose to raise children. Yet, the marriage statute denies civil marriage to all gay and lesbian people in order to discourage the limited number of same-sex couples who desire to raise children. In doing so, the Legislature includes a consequential number of "individuals within the statute's purview who are not afflicted with the evil the statute seeks to remedy" Conway, 932 A.2d at 649...

A suggested rationale supporting the maintaing statute is "promoting stability in opposite-sex relationships." While the institution of civil marriage likely encourages stability in opposite-sex relationships, we must evaluate whether excluding gay and lesbian people from civil marriage encourages stability in opposite-sex relationships. The County offers no reasons that it does and we can find none. The stability of opposite-sex relationships is an important governmental interest, bu the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is not substantially related to that objective...

Now that we have addressed and rejected each specific interest advanced by the County to justify the classification drawn under the statute, we consider the reason for the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage left unspoken by the County: religious opposition to same-sex marriage. The County's silence reflects, we believe, its understanding this reason cannot, under our Iowa Constitution, be used to justify a ban on same-sex marriage...
Mason Slidell


Anonymous said...

The midwest tends to be conservative, but you also have a strong populist and even progressive tradition in Iowa.

Here is an excerpt from a joint statement by the Iowa Senate Majority Leader and the Iowa House Speaker:

"Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision"

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

True, there is an agrarian populist tradition in the Midwest, most evident in Iowa and Minnesota, but I do not think that appeals to it is an adequate explanation of this ruling. Agrarian populists certainly are economic leftists, even socialist in some of the movement’s older manifestations. Socially speaking, however, the movement has deeply Christian roots that have never been positive toward equal rights for homosexuals.

After all, this sort of populism is the same movement that catapulted Pat Robertson in '88 and Mike Huckabee in ’08 to win the Iowa Republican caucuses.

The opinion reads much more like classical, non-religious progressive liberalism, which as far as I know, has never had deep roots in the Midwestern political tradition.

Mason Slidell

Bobadilla said...

I don't think it changes the fundamental terms of the debate, but it seems to be a bigger blow to the cause of traditional marriage because it is a Midwestern state rather than the typically liberal state.

In truth, you were right before about the case for traditional marriage being undermined long ago by no-fault divorce and the march of the sexual revolution for heterosexuals.

I don’t think the Church should give up arguing for traditional marriage, but it is an open question of how the Church should react if the culture totally sweeps aside the last vestiges of it.