The decisions are remarkable for several reasons...
Iowa's decision is likely to stick. Only a constitutional amendment can overturn the Court's ruling. Unlike several states, Iowa does not allow voters to propose constitutional revisions through ballot initiatives. Amending the constitution requires the state legislature to act during two legislative sessions, and legislative leaders have indicated that they will let the decision stand.
The ruling is a victory not just for Iowans, but for same sex couples everywhere. Iowa does not require couples seeking marriage licenses to prove that they live in Iowa, allowing same-sex couples from other states to marry.
The Iowa decision is an especially welcome victory after several recent setbacks, especially California's shameful approval of Proposition 8 reversing a similar ruling from their Supreme Court. The New York Times editorial board hailed the decision as "a refreshing message of fairness and common sense from the nation’s heartland."
“I think there’s been a perception that it couldn’t happen here,” David Twombley, 67, said, moments after he learned that he and his partner could marry. The couple was among six Iowa couples to start the legal fight four years ago that culminated in Friday’s decision.The Iowa legislature in 1998 passed a measure limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. In 2007, local judge Robert B. Hanson, declared the law unconstitutional, but stayed the ruling to give the Iowa Supreme Court time to weigh in.
“But yes, it happened, right here in Iowa,” Mr. Twombley said. “There’s something about that, about it happening in the heartland, that has got to accelerate this process for the whole country.”
The Supreme Court roundly rejected the legislature's actions as an equal opportunity violation without any “persuasive justification."
"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 Court said.
The cause of same-sex equality has, until now, remained largely confined to New England. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, followed by Connecticut last year. Similar measures are pending in Maine and Rhode Island.
Vermont Governor Jim Douglas tried to veto a bill permitting same-sex marriage, but the legislature was quick to stand up for same-sex equality and override the Governor's veto.
In New Hampshire, the state Senate recently followed the House in passing a measure permitting same-sex marriages. The bills still need to be reconciled, but the measure's progress is encouraging.
In New York, Governor David Paterson declared his intention to introduce and lobby for a same-sex marriage equality law. The State Assembly last year passed a similar measure, but the governor's decision to actively back the bill, coupled with his history in the State Senate, significantly boosts the measure's chances of passing.
The decision from Vermont, New York, and Iowa are critical reminders that equality is a supremely American virtue, and cannot be sequestered in any one region.