“There’s a rainbow over Iowa”

That quote just cracks me up, in part because I am SO GODDAMN EXCITED that the Iowa Supreme Court just unanimously voted that excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage violates the state constitution.


What’s more—though I had to go to Bay Windows to find this out—the court already explicitly rejected the civil unions argument:

Noting that other supreme courts have allowed legislatures to provide “equal benefits” of marriage through civil unions, the Iowa court said such a “new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.” The state’s marriage law – minus the ban for gay couples – must now be applied, said the court, “in a manner allowing gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage.”

The decision takes effect in 21 days, although apparently officials may be given a few months to “prepare.” Which seems a little weird to me, since I think it’s actually easier to hand out marriage licenses to all unrelated couples over 18 who want to get married instead of only some of them. Courthouse clerks across the state can cross “Make sure it’s a dude and a lady” off their “Can these people get married?” checklist, saving themselves probably dozens of minutes a week. Think of the increased productivity!

What’s more, the state legislature won’t be able to get a constitutional amendment up for popular vote until 2012. The downside of this is obvious: Since it coincides with state and national elections, conservative candidates will be using the amendment, and there will be one, to mobilize their base. However, the longer same-sex marriage is a fact of life in people’s states and neighborhoods, the harder they find it to get really outraged about something that, it turns out, does not in any way disrupt their lives. Even in crazy-liberal Massachusetts gay marriage was controversial at first, but enjoyed rapidly increasing support with every year that went by. Initial opposition to marriage equality will probably be stronger and more widespread in Iowa than it was here, so who knows if three years is enough to overcome prejudice and get people to turn out to vote against the amendment, but chances are a hell of a lot better than they would have been if it went to ballot next year or the year after.

Obviously every time a state takes a step toward lessening de jure discrimination against the LGBTQI community it’s a huge victory, but I feel this one is especially important, psychologically, for the rest of the country. I am excited every day that in Massachusetts I could get a wedding invitation from any of my friends, not just from those lucky enough to find love among their socially-sanctioned gender, but I do think that the perception that same-sex marriage was a thing that happened on those crazy godless liberal coasts (and then, tragically, just the one coast) further cemented opposition to equality in the Midwest and South. This change may initially fire up bigots who suddenly fear that their heartland state could be the next to fall, but when Iowa doesn’t tear itself apart, when god does not descend from the heavens to wipe out the corn crop, and when ordinary Iowans start showing up on TV before their caucuses saying things like, “At first I was dead set against it, but Jim and Bob down the street made me realize that they deserve the same chances I do,” it will become a lot easier for a lot of socially conservative people to accept that, y’know, this may not be the end of the world after all.


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