The Iowa Supreme Court today ruled unanimously that a 1998 state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is an unconstitutional violation of equal protection guarantees. Today's decision is the first to open the door for legal same-sex marriage in a Midwestern state.
The lawsuit was filed by twelve Polk County, Iowa residents who make up six same-sex couples. In its unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court declared that "[Polk] County has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage," and concluded that therefore "the Iowa marriage statute violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution."
The New York Times reports that today's action by Iowa's top court is monumental not just for what took place, but where: "While the same-sex marriage debate has played out on both coasts, the Midwest -- where no states had permitted same-sex marriage -- was seen as entirely different. In the past, at least six states in the Midwest were among those around the country that adopted amendments to their state constitutions banning same-sex marriage."
Currently, Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only states that allow same-sex marriage, and a recent Law and Daily Life blog post discusses how New England has become a hotbed for legal developments related to gay marriage.
In California, the state's top court heard arguments in March over the constitionality of Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure which changed the state's Constitution to limit the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. A ruling on the Prop 8 case is expected by mid-June.