The Iowa Supreme Court did the just thing last week when it found laws prohibiting marriage between people of the same gender unconstitutional. The court gave a UNANIMOUS opinion displaying a moral clarity on the subject which other states and ultimately the nation will surly follow. The following is from the summary that the court released about its finding:
In addressing the case before it, the court found one constitutional principle was at the heart of the case--the doctrine of equal protection. Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution "is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike." Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women's rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past.
As a minister who largely does heterosexual weddings but occasionally also performs same sex wedding ceremonies and civil unions I can cooroberate the findings of the court from the religious side. I see no qualitative difference between the love and commitment of same sex couples and heterosexual couples. Both undergo a great deal of mental, emotional and spiritual preparation before arriving at the conclusion that they would like to be joined together - if anything homosexual couples have to put in more thought as the step of marriage is still not an obvious one. Homosexual couples deserve the equal protection and the rights that the court in Iowa recently afforded them.
Regardless of this reality, many of my clergy colleagues will refuse to perform these ceremonies using the shelter of religious tradition to account for their discrimination. That is their right - this law forces no clergy to perform any weddings against their will and it shouldn't. Most Rabbis won't marry a Jew to a non-Jew - that's their right. But it doesn't mean that Jews shouldn't have the constitutional right to marry non-Jews just because a Rabbi says so.
Much has been made by gay marriage opponents of how this goes against the will of the majority of people. That is probably still the case, but that majority is getting slimmer every year and soon it will be the minority. Few, though some, would still argue for segregated schools in the south, but there was a time when that was a "moral" principle deeply embedded in the majority of citizens. The courts are meant to protect the rights of the minority populations from the tyranny of the majority, not because it is popular but because it is the right thing to do.
In response to the Iowa ruling Rod Dreher of Crunchy Con predictably lamented:
This morning, I had breakfast with some guys, including a lawyer. We weren't aware of this decision, but we talked about this issue. The lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race, then "it will be very hard to be a public Christian." By which he meant to voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage.
First of all, equating being a public Christian with being anti-gay is simply not accurate as millions of us are public Christians without beating up on gay people. Second, anyone can voice support for anything they want - "traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality"; racial purity; the superiority of Christianity over Islam and other religions - people still voice support for these things publicly and the courts will support thieir ability to do so.
And the rest of us can publicly disagree.
Cross posted from Beliefnet's Progressive Revival