The Iowa Supreme Court’s approval of same-sex marriage on Friday gave advocates an important first victory in the nation’s heartland, thwarting the notion that only the Northeast will accept it.Hmm ... "voters in Iowa cannot initiate constitutional amendments ..." Maybe Iowans need some real progressive reforms.
But for now, New England remains the nucleus of the same-sex marriage movement, with a campaign under way to extend marriage rights to gay men and lesbians in all six of the region’s states by 2012.
Massachusetts has allowed same-sex marriage since 2004, and Connecticut began allowing it last fall. The Vermont Legislature just voted to let same-sex couples marry, and supporters hope to gather enough votes to override a veto promised by Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican.
New Hampshire is not far behind; its House of Representatives approved a same-sex marriage bill last month. The legislatures in Maine and Rhode Island are considering their own versions, though they are not as far along in the process.
Across New England, advocacy groups have been raising money, training volunteers and lobbying voters and lawmakers as part of a campaign they call “Six by Twelve,” led by the legal advocacy group that persuaded the Supreme Courts in Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow same-sex marriage in 2003 and 2008.
Equal rights advocates said Friday that while the Midwest in general was culturally and politically different from the Northeast, Iowa shared New England’s independent streak and so was a logical place to file another court challenge.
“We picked Iowa because many of us who don’t live in the Midwest might think of it as being a conservative monolith,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, which argued the Iowa case. “But people who know Iowa have been saying for some time that it is different from its neighbors. There’s a tradition of independence and willingness to stand up on issues of fairness.”
As in most New England states, voters in Iowa cannot initiate constitutional amendments, a common strategy for blocking same-sex marriage elsewhere. In California, voters last fall amended the State Constitution to ban such marriages after a court decision made it legal. The California Supreme Court is considering a petition to overturn the ban, but many legal scholars have predicted that it will be upheld.
I should have an essay published on the gay marriage debate at Pajamas Media tomorrow or the next day. Actually, I think California's probably more of a gay rights trendsetter over the last year. But as for this story, I mainly liked the picture accompanying the article, "Opponents of same-sex marriage rallied Thursday outside the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt." If you look closely at the left of the photo, one of the signs reads, "Referendum: It's Fair. It's Right. It's Time."
See also, Robert Stacy McCain, "Gay Rights and the Politics of Coercive Approval."