Saturday, September 01, 2007

That Unique Iowa Marriage

The delightfully impatient Iowa pair of men who raced to marry following a judge's voiding of prohibition against same-sex marriage there. They are a oner. It seems that although 27 homosexual couples applied for marriage licenses and 19 received them, only Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan both paid the $5 to bypass the three-day wait and had their marriage solemnized in the few hours when it was possible.

A Cedar Rapids couple was foiled by driving distance, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Gregory Mathis and his long-term partner Ravi Chandran hied to the Polk County Recorder's office. They arrived shortly after the judge stayed his order permitting SSM in Iowa in the late morning.

Mathis called the office to confirm they were issuing licenses to SS couples. Yet he was not too surprised when he could not get one that morning He said, "It's very disappointing, but I guess it's not new. In the 1970s I didn't get custody of my child because I'm gay. In the 1980s I was excommunicated from my church because I'm gay. I've had a lot of walls thrown up at me because I'm gay, this is just one more."

While two other couples got the exemption from the three-day wait, they did not get married in time.

Yet the prima facie standing of the one SS married couple in the state might well stand, regardless of what the Appeals Court or Supreme Court there eventually rule on any appeal. They certainly married in good faith and were issued their license with no deceit.

It reminds me of the failed attempt to stop SSM here in Massachusetts. Even the groups masquerading as "pro-family" when that's not what they mean at all knew that trying to void existing legal marriages would not pass muster in this nation at this time. The amendment they tried to pass here would have let legal SSMs stand.

In contrast, three years ago, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered his officials to issue SS marriage licenses, he did so on his own. He did not have the legal standing to do so, and those marriages were not valid.

In addition, the Des Moines Register vetted the issue with Stephen Saunders, "a Chicago-based attorney for a group of historians and Iowa legal professors who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the lawsuit, (who) said judges usually avoid breaking up families when the members of the wedding party themselves have done nothing wrong. That means McQuillan and Fritz's marriage could survive intact, even if the Iowa Supreme Court eventually overturns Hanson's decision, he said."

Back in Iowa, the district judge, Scott Rosenberg, is taking heat for expediting the men's marriage. He and other judges routinely do the same for opposite-sex couples who ask and pay the nominal fee. Yet according to the Des Moines Register, the judge's evenhandedness displeases some anti-gay and anti-marriage-equality sorts.

Rosenberg said it would have been political only if he had told them to get lost. As he put it, "If I'm going to grant it for couples that are male and female, then why all the sudden should I change because a couple is the same sex?" Well, that didn't cut it for the Iowa Family Policy Center's president, Chuck Hurley, J.D. Fairly huffing himself into breathing trouble, he called the judge's courtesy, ""absolutely outrageous." "That's an affront to the legislators ... who established a three-day wait for a reason. I think that galls me as much or more than what Judge Hanson did because Judge Hanson obviously spent a lot of time writing his decision, not to say that I think what Judge Hanson did was right."

Pardon me while I rend my clothing in empathy with Chuck.

The lead editorial in the Register also was refreshingly sensible, particularly in light of the hyperventilating screaming we heard here in the amendment battle. It noted that Iowa's legislature had set itself up for this by having equality statutes, yet also passing a DOMA law without allowing for any alternative, such as civil unions.

The editorial's analysis of Judge Hanson's detailed and precise ruling is the best I've seen, including:
In defending the state marriage law, the defendant, Polk County - as the issuer of marriage licenses - relied on the standard arguments, but Hanson's opinion easily disposed of them: 1. Same-sex unions threaten the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. There was no evidence presented of that, he wrote. 2. The state's interest in heterosexual marriage is based on a desire to encourage procreation and raising children in households with mothers and fathers. There's an internal inconsistency with that, he found. After all, the state grants marriages to people who have no plans to raise children, and yet Iowa sanctions gay couples to adopt children and to become foster parents.

To show how the drive to outlaw same-sex marriage is on a collision course with the federal Constitution, Hanson cites language from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision striking down sodomy laws. As Justice Antonin Scalia points out, preserving the " 'traditional institution of marriage' is just a kinder way of describing the state's moral disapproval of same-sex couples."
Let us pause and snicker at the irony of Hanson citing anti-SSM Justice Scalia in the finding.

I have no doubt many of the 40-plus states who rushed to pass DOMA laws and related amendments are watching with nervous anticipation. Iowa may well go with SSM or civil unions as the sensible, legal and constitutional course. The anti-marriage-equality buffoons know that day is coming in their own states. They had figured it might be decades, and maybe when the current legislators had retired, when they had to pay for their emotional pandering. Yet, in the very sensible and middle-American Iowa the big issues may be on the table and in their faces very soon.

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1 comment:

W.C. Varones said...

Have you seen Gavin Newsom's new campaign slogan?