Iowa Marriage Ruling: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Obviously, the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional is a pretty big deal ... a big enough deal, in fact, that it seems to have crashed the court's website as people try to access the decision.

Fortunately, Pam has grabbed and posted a PDF of the ruling and so we wanted to highlight this good section of the ruling in which the court lays out clearly and firmly the basic difference between religious and civil marriage and notes that granting equality in the latter in no way undermines or denigrates the former:

This contrast of opinions in our society largely explains the absence of any religion-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban. Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring government avoids them ... The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage for religious institutions. Instead, the statute declares, “Marriage is a civil contract” and then regulates that civil contract. Thus, in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with civil marriage.

We, of course, have a constitutional mandate to protect the free exercise of religion in Iowa, which includes the freedom of a religious organization to define marriages it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman ... This mission to protect religious freedom is consistent with our task to prevent government from endorsing any religious view. State government can have no religious views, either directly or indirectly, expressed through its legislation ... This proposition is the essence of the separation of church and state.

As a result, civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals. This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all. We are not permitted to do less and would damage our constitution immeasurably by trying to do more ...

In the final analysis, we give respect to the views of all Iowans on the issue of same-sex marriage—religious or otherwise—by giving respect to our constitutional principles. These principles require that the state recognize both opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriage. Religious doctrine and views contrary to this principle of law are unaffected, and people can continue to associate with the religion that best reflects their views. A religious denomination can still define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a marriage ceremony performed by a minister, priest, rabbi, or other person ordained or designated as a leader of the person’s religious faith does not lose its meaning as a sacrament or other religious institution.

The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law. This result is what our constitution requires.

Now for the bad - the ruling just came down and already we are seeing conservative critics pitching a fit, calling the decision "69 pages of blather" and "gobbledygook" written by "judicial knaves who proudly regard themselves as trailblazers" and will only see more of this sort of outrage as the day progresses ... which will likely entail more ugly things like this press release from Peter LaBarbera:

Today Iowa becomes the first state not on either of the nation's two liberal coasts to impose homosexual 'marriage' or its mischievous twin, 'civil unions,' on its citizens through judicial tyranny. To call this decision bankrupt is to understate its perniciousness. The evil genius of the pro-sodomy movement is that it targets noble institutions like marriage and adoption in the name of 'rights,' and then perverts them to normalize aberrant behaviors.

Homosexual 'marriage' is wrong because homosexual behavior itself is wrong and destructive -- as proved by its role in the early deaths of countless 'gay' men ... When the courts order society to effectively pretend that changeable sexual misbehavior is a 'civil right,' the law itself becomes perverted by punishing people of faith for their proper opposition toward deviant sex ... It is high time for pastors, in Iowa and across the land, to shake off their stifling, politically correct timidity and again become the prophetic voices for Truth they were called to be: by boldly warning Americans about the perils of our growing accommodation with the sins of proud homosexuality, and sex outside marriage in general.