What Today Means

Dale Carpenter reacts to Iowa:

This is the third pro-SSM state supreme court decision in the past year. In addition to the important marriage result, the decision is notable because it continues a growing trend among state courts to treat sexual-orientation classifications as suspect. If it continues, that trend will have consequences on gay-rights questions well beyond the marriage context. State judiciaries are beginning to follow a familiar pattern of hastening civil-rights progress for a group once that group's cause has achieved a measure of legislative success and cultural acceptance.

No other state in the Midwest even recognizes same-sex domestic partnerships, much less civil unions, or marriages. Same-sex marriages will actually begin in Iowa in about three weeks. The state has no residency requirement for marriage, meaning that gay couples elsewhere in the Midwest can easily travel there and get married, although their relationships will not be recognized when they return to their home states. I can see two simultaneous effects from this: (1) rising expectations among gay couples in the Midwest combined with more political pressure to enact domestic partnerships and civil unions, especially in Illinois, and (2) rising alarm and political organizing among gay-marriage opponents in those same states.

The Des Moines Register has more on how the state is reacting. Among other things, the paper estimates that unless the legislature acts very quickly, the state's demanding constitutional amendment process means there would be no possibility of passing a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage until 2012.