Main | Monday, December 08, 2008

Iowa: State Supreme Court To Hear Marriage Equality Arguments Tomorrow

Tomorrow the Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
The case, Varnum vs. Brien, could make Iowa the first state in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage. Other high-court decisions that favor gay rights advocates have come from traditionally liberal coastal states, including California, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

"This is the heartland of America - a place where family values are revered," said University of Iowa law professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig, who has signed a court brief supporting gay-marriage rights. "It would be an incredibly strong signal for the Iowa Supreme Court to find that same-sex marriages are legal."

Yet a ruling that upholds the Iowa Defense of Marriage Act would amount to a major setback for the gay rights movement, and a victory for social conservatives who argue that same-sex marriage threatens traditional families. The couples, financed by a national gay and lesbian rights group, filed their lawsuit in 2005 after the Polk County recorder denied them marriage licenses. Last year, Polk County district Judge Robert Hanson declared the marriage ban unconstitutional and ignited a legal fire storm. Hanson later suspended his ruling until the Iowa Supreme Court decides the case.

Camilla Taylor, senior legal counsel for the national gay-rights group Lambda Legal, which helped bring the case, said the couples who filed the lawsuit are optimistic they will prevail. The Iowa high court, she said, has traditionally led the nation on civil rights issues. For instance, she said, the court eliminated a ban on interracial marriage more than a century before the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional.
The Iowa Supreme Court has created a special web page dedicated to the case, where you'll note the usual roster of evil-doers who have filed briefs in support of the defendant (the state of Iowa): the Knights of Columbus, the Liberty Counsel, P-FOX, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Beckett Fund. On our side is Freedom To Marry, NGLTF, HRC, PFLAG, and many others. Tomorrow's oral arguments will be streamed live on the site.

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