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- Iowa gay marriage ruling a turning point for justices
Conservatives who oppose Iowa Supreme Court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage and overturning abortion restrictions are urging the Republican-led legislature to strike back. Republicans at the statehouse are drawing up plans to change the make-up of the commission that nominates people to the governor for judgeships, in response to what they say is "judicial activism.
A spokeswoman for Governor Kim Reynolds has issued a clarification of the governor's views on same-sex marriage after Reynolds seemed to call for a statewide vote on the issue. The Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. Supreme … [Read more A bill that's ready for debate in the Iowa Senate would require five of the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court to agree when ruling that a state law is unconstitutional.
Not surprisingly, none of the same-sex marriage decisions from other state courts around the nation have found a person's sexual orientation to be indicative of the person's general ability to contribute to society.
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District of Columbia, A. More importantly, the Iowa legislature has recently declared as the public policy of this state that sexual orientation is not relevant to a person's ability to contribute to a number of societal institutions other than civil marriage. Rather, we merely highlight the reality that chapter and numerous other statutes and regulations demonstrate sexual orientation is broadly recognized in Iowa to be irrelevant to a person's ability to contribute to society.
Thus, although we do not interpret chapter to allow same-sex marriage, we rely on the legislative judgment underlying chapter to determine the appropriate level of scrutiny when sexual orientation is the basis for a statutory classification. Based on Iowa statutes and regulations, it is clear sexual orientation is no longer viewed in Iowa as an impediment to the ability of a person to contribute to society.
Immutability of sexual orientation. The parties, consistent with the same-sex-marriage scholarship, opinions, and jurisprudence, contest whether sexual orientation is immutable or unresponsive to attempted change. The County seizes on this debate to argue the summary judgment granted by the district court in this case was improper because plaintiffs could not prove, as a matter of fact, that sexuality is immutable. This argument, however, essentially limits the constitutional relevance of mutability to those instances in which the trait defining the burdened class is absolutely impervious to change.
To evaluate this argument, we must first consider the rationale for using immutability as a factor. Richardson, U. Bakke, U. Aetna Cas. Additionally, immutability can relate to the scope and permanency of the barrier imposed on the group. Temporary barriers tend to be less burdensome on a group and more likely to actually advance a legitimate governmental interest. Consequently, such barriers normally do not warrant heightened scrutiny. See Sosna v.
Kline, U. The permanency of the barrier also depends on the ability of the individual to change the characteristic responsible for the discrimination. This aspect of immutability may separate truly victimized individuals from those who have invited discrimination by changing themselves so as to be identified with the group. As implied by Justice Ferren, in dissent, in Dean:. Importantly, this background reveals courts need not definitively resolve the nature-versus-nurture debate currently raging over the origin of sexual orientation in order to decide plaintiffs' equal protection claims.
The constitutional relevance of the immutability factor is not reserved to those instances in which the trait defining the burdened class is absolutely impossible to change. Compare Sherman, N.
Army, F. In this case, the County acknowledges sexual orientation is highly resistant to change. United States, F.
Sexual orientation influences the formation of personal relationships between all people-heterosexual, gay, or lesbian-to fulfill each person's fundamental needs for love and attachment. Muci, F. Sexual orientation is not the type of human trait that allows courts to relax their standard of review because the barrier is temporary or susceptible to self-help. Political powerlessness of lesbian and gay people.
Justices ousted over gay marriage ruling worry about politics affecting the bench
As observed, the political power of the burdened class has been referenced repeatedly in Supreme Court cases determining the level of scrutiny to be applied to a given piece of legislation. Unfortunately, the Court has never defined what it means to be politically powerless for purposes of this analysis, nor has it quantified a maximum amount of political power a group may enjoy while still receiving the protection from unfair discrimination accompanying heightened scrutiny.
The County points to the numerous legal protections gay and lesbian people have secured against discrimination, and the County argues those protections demonstrate gay and lesbian people are not a politically powerless class. The County's argument implies gay and lesbian people must be characterized by a complete, or nearly complete, lack of political power before courts should subject sexual-orientation-based legislative burdens to a heightened scrutiny. Notwithstanding the lack of a mathematical equation to guide the analysis of this factor, a number of helpful general principles related to the political power of suspect classes can be culled from the Supreme Court's cases.
First, these cases show absolute political powerlessness is not necessary to subject legislative burdens on a certain class to heightened scrutiny. For example, females enjoyed at least some measure of political power when the Supreme Court first heightened its scrutiny of gender classifications. See Frontiero, U. Second, Supreme Court jurisprudence establishes that a group's current political powerlessness is not a prerequisite to enhanced judicial protection. Race continues to be a suspect classification, Grutter v. Bollinger, U. While a more in-depth discussion of the history of the political-power factor is possible, see Kerrigan, A.
It is also important to observe that the political power of gays and lesbians, while responsible for greater acceptance and decreased discrimination, has done little to remove barriers to civil marriage. Although a small number of state legislatures have approved civil unions for gay and lesbian people without judicial intervention, no legislature has secured the right to civil marriage for gay and lesbian people without court order. Like Iowa, over forty other states have passed statutes or constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriages.
Thus, although equal rights for gays and lesbians have been increasingly recognized in the political arena, the right to civil marriage is a notable exception to this trend. Consequently, the specific right sought in this case has largely lacked any extensive political support and has actually experienced an affirmative backlash. We are convinced gay and lesbian people are not so politically powerful as to overcome the unfair and severe prejudice that history suggests produces discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Iowa gay marriage ruling a turning point for justices
Gays and lesbians certainly possess no more political power than women enjoyed four decades ago when the Supreme Court began subjecting gender-based legislation to closer scrutiny. Additionally, gay and lesbian people are, as a class, currently no more powerful than women or members of some racial minorities.
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These facts demonstrate, at the least, the political-power factor does not weigh against heightened judicial scrutiny of sexual-orientation-based legislation. Classifications based on sexual orientation demand closer scrutiny. In summarizing the rationale supporting heightened scrutiny of legislation classifying on the basis of sexual orientation, it would be difficult to improve upon the words of the Supreme Court of Connecticut:.
Gay persons have been subjected to and stigmatized by a long history of purposeful and invidious discrimination that continues to manifest itself in society.
The characteristic that defines the members of this group-attraction to persons of the same sex-bears no logical relationship to their ability to perform in society, either in familial relations or otherwise as productive citizens. Because sexual orientation is such an essential component of personhood, even if there is some possibility that a person's sexual preference can be altered, it would be wholly unacceptable for the state to require anyone to do so.
Gay persons also represent a distinct minority of the population. It is true, of course, that gay persons recently have made significant advances in obtaining equal treatment under the law. Nonetheless, we conclude that, as a minority group that continues to suffer the enduring effects of centuries of legally sanctioned discrimination, laws singling them out for disparate treatment are subject to heightened judicial scrutiny to ensure that those laws are not the product of such historical prejudice and stereotyping.
But see Conaway, A. We agree with the observations of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The factors established to guide our determination of the level of scrutiny to utilize in our examination of the equal protection claim in this case all point to an elevated level of scrutiny. Accordingly, we hold that legislative classifications based on sexual orientation must be examined under a heightened level of scrutiny under the Iowa Constitution.
Application of Heightened Scrutiny. Plaintiffs argue sexual-orientation-based statutes should be subject to the most searching scrutiny. The County asserts Iowa's marriage statute, section Because we conclude Iowa's same-sex marriage statute cannot withstand intermediate scrutiny, we need not decide whether classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to a higher level of scrutiny. Thus, we turn to a discussion of the intermediate scrutiny standard.
Intermediate scrutiny standard. Jeter, U.