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I should add “Cont’d,” since this is hardly the first, or last, instance of state courts’ deliberating on and dictating the meaning of marriage. Last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously overturned the state’s existing law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, claiming that such a law “violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.” As early as April 24, same-sex couples will be permitted to contract civil marriages in the state. From the Des Moines Register :

“Iowa loses,” said Republican Sen. David Johnson of Ocheyedan. “There have been attempts in the past few years to allow Iowans to weigh in on this issue through our constitutional amendment process and it’s been blocked by majority party leadership. That’s why Iowa loses.” . . .

Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights, said today’s decision could set the stage for other states . . . . “I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest sate in the mainstream of American thought,” Socarides said. “Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

Over at Public Discourse , Matthew Franck offers a sane assessment of the court’s argument for public recognition, under the name of marriage, of same-sex “committed and loving relationships”:

Now, only a great fool would deny the connection of love and marriage—they go together like a horse and carriage, as Frank Sinatra famously sang. But emotion and desire, without more, are a treacherous foundation for law and public policy. As Pascal remarked, the heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. From society’s vantage point, that’s not good enough. Marriage and family are a moral institution—the teacher of right conduct between the sexes, the school of morality for the young, the founding scene of our moral obligations, the refuge from a wider world where respect for those obligations is a much chancier proposition. These may sound like lofty ideals often unrealized, but that both is the point and is beside the point. Society has an interest—none of its interests is higher—in encouraging the successful formation of marriages and families that point by their nature toward the achievement of these ideals. Within the metes and bounds of the law that expresses society’s conclusions about these matters, the rest is up to us . . . .

Lost from view [in the court ruling] is the true ground of our common public morality: reasoned judgment about the natures of things and the good of human persons, families, and communities. About such matters, religion can be instructive (to say the least), while a mere desire to “affirm” our “relationships” cannot be. And so, in both its reductive approach to religion and its empty invocations of feelings, the Iowa Supreme Court has done an injustice to religion, to the possibility of lawful public morality, and—yes—to our relationships themselves.

And, a variation on the theme: After being passed 26-4 last month by the Vermont Senate, a bill permitting same-sex marriage was approved last Friday, 95-52, by the Vermont Congress. Yesterday, Governor Douglas vetoed the bill, and as it stands the House falls just short of the 100 votes necessary to override his veto. The House and Senate are expected to vote again today. In the meantime, calls are pouring in from across Vermont and the rest of the country (with a similar reaction in Iowa). The response to the response? This remark is telling:

Rep. Floyd Nease, D-Johnson, told the Democratic Caucus early Thursday afternoon to oppose any amendment today that would send the same-sex marriage question to voters in the form of a non-binding town meeting referendum.

“If you like the robocalls that are coming in from Virginia, if you like the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails people from Florida, Arizona, Utah and actually even Guam have sent us . . . if you like that, you’ll love the next 12 months of that,” Nease said. “That’s what a referendum would create.”

Democracy has its costs, and it seems not everyone wants to pay them.



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