When I was growing up in Iowa, the state's marketing slogan was "Iowa, you make me smile." As disgruntled high schoolers, my friends and I would use the phrase sarcastically... But today, it's totally appropriate. Because this morning the Iowa Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex couples to marry.
For 10 years, Iowa has had a law on the books defining marriage as "between a man and a woman," and the court unanimously ruled that that statute violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution. The Supreme Court decision comes after conservatives appealed a district court ruling in favor of gay marriage in 2007, the same year the state legislature passed a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
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. Socarides was was a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the early 1990s.
“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.’”
This is exactly what the right wing is afraid of. I'm tentatively betting on a bigger national anti-gay uproar in response to the Iowa decision than there was after California or Massachusetts. After all, it's a bit more difficult for conservatives to spin this as a crazy decision by "activist judges" in an outlier, coastal, liberal state. Unsurprisingly, the lobbying for an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution has already begun. Today, though, it's nice to be from Iowa.