Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The opinion in the Iowa gay-marriage decision

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From Peterr [sic] at Firedoglake:

If you are deciding a Very Big Case, your judicial opinion is going to get a lot of attention and it behooves you to write it well.

If you want to know what a very well-written opinion looks like, let me point you to the work of Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady in Varnum v Brien [pdf], which struck down Iowa’s prohibition on same-sex marriage (internal citations omitted and emphasis added):

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes poignantly said, “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.” This concept is evident in our past cases.

In the first reported case of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Iowa, In re Ralph, we refused to treat a human being as property to enforce a contract for slavery and held our laws must extend equal protection to persons of all races and conditions. This decision was seventeen years before the United States Supreme Court infamously decided Dred Scott v. Sandford, which upheld the rights of a slave owner to treat a person as property. Similarly, in Clark v. Board of Directors, and Coger v. North West. Union Packet Co., we struck blows to the concept of segregation long before the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Iowa was also the first state in the nation to admit a woman to the practice of law, doing so in 1869. Her admission occurred three years before the United States Supreme Court affirmed the State of Illinois decision to deny women admission to the practice of law, see Bradwell v. Illinois, and twenty five years before the United States Supreme Court affirmed the refusal of the Commonwealth of Virginia to admit women into the practice of law, see Ex parte Lockwood. In each of those instances, our state approached a fork in the road toward fulfillment of our constitution’s ideals and reaffirmed the absolute equality of all” persons before the law as “the very foundation principle of our government.” See Coger.

So, today, this court again faces an important issue that hinges on our definition of equal protection. This issue comes to us with the same importance as our landmark cases of the past. The same-sex-marriage debate waged in this case is part of a strong national dialogue centered on a fundamental, deep-seated, traditional institution that has excluded, by state action, a particular class of Iowans. This class of people asks a simple and direct question: How can a state premised on the constitutional principle of equal protection justify exclusion of a class of Iowans from civil marriage?

Some judicial opinions are impenetrable, even to other judges. This is not one of those opinions. By the end of it, the answer to that question above is inescapable: it can’t:

Iowa Code section 595.2 is unconstitutional because …

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Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2009 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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